It may seem improbable that such a tremendous will can be housed in just a 5-foot-4-inch frame, but that’s the conundrum that is JMU sophomore diver Faith Anderson. She may be on the shorter side, but her drive and ambition are capable of dwarfing anyone.
Anderson is one of the most chipper people you’ll ever meet. However, behind the friendly brown eyes lingers a palpable focus that’s driven her to excellence in all aspects of life. This same focus is what has allowed her to go from barely securing a spot on the team to achieving an NCAA qualifying mark in the 1-meter-dive, a fifth-place finish in the 3-meter dive at the CAA Championships and an overall 11th-place performance at the conference meet.
“Honestly, when Faith came on her visit [to JMU] she was this petite young lady that I wasn’t sure was going to be strong enough to be a good Division-I diver, but we gave her the chance because of her character,” diving coach John Wolsh said. “Her character is everything. She’s honest. She’s a hard worker. She’s very special. I teased her and said, ‘I’d let my son date you!’”
However, picking up Anderson isn’t something the team regrets. This year alone, she’s posted an NCAA qualifying mark, 291.10 — once again in the 1-meter-dive — along with a first-place finish against Liberty.
Anderson began her journey as a diver after transitioning from gymnastics, a sport she’d participated in for eight years. An elbow injury forced her into a tough decision: continuing with gymnastics, which would require her to have surgery every year on top of the two she’d already had, or try something new. Fortunately for her, the adrenaline rush of pulling off a 1-meter- or 3-meter-dive wasn’t so different from tumbling and flipping on the gymnastics floor. Anderson fell in love with the sport immediately and never looked back.
“I actually knew a diving coach through my gymnastics coach, so I decided to try that out,” Anderson said. “It’s a lot less impact [on your body] so I was able to try that out, and I loved it. It’s definitely an adrenaline rush.”
Anderson is just as prolific academically as she is athletically. In her first semester as a freshman, she recorded a perfect 4.0 GPA and made President’s List. That’s an impressive accomplishment for any student, even more so for a student-athlete who must contend with early morning practices and a hectic travel schedule on top of her schoolwork.
Her excellence is by no means recent. Even in high school, she was outstanding academically and athletically. She was valedictorian of her class, a National Honor Society member and placed sixth at the state diving competition her senior year. No matter how far back in time you go, Anderson is excelling in some field, and this stems not from a desire for personal glory but from her selflessness.
“I definitely devote a lot of my life to community service,” Anderson said. “That’s something that’s important to me … That’s part of the reason I’m involved in a lot of things. I’m also just a really driven person. I like to work to the best of my abilities and make everyone around me proud.”
When she’s back in her home town of Palestine, Ohio, Anderson is facilitating food drives and helping with charity events like Operation Christmas Child, an organization that sends toys to children in impoverished countries around the world. At JMU, she’s involved with the SCA and helping a friend create a new organization named Delight for Christian women to gather and talk about their faith. Her devotion to bettering others has brought an infectious vibe to her teammates.
“Faith is awesome,” junior diver Hope Byrum said. “She’s always so encouraging to everybody else on the team, during practice . . . She definitely helps create, between the five of us divers, that very close atmosphere. She’s so funny, just a great teammate.”
Anderson’s consistent and uniform success is remarkable. Few people possess the strength of character required to take on such a daunting schedule and tackle such large ambitions, but Anderson is well equipped to do what she’s set out to do in life: leave a worthwhile legacy, in and outside her sport.
Contact Michael Turner at email@example.com. For more swimming and diving coverage, follow the Breeze sports desk on twitter @TheBreezeSports.