Mary Bennett sets world records at diving championships.
By: Tim Falls
Mary Bennett’s friends expect it.
Those who don’t know diving and don’t know Bennett may be surprised to find she holds world records in the sport.
"People who don’t dive are surprised," said Bennett. "They don’t expect people my age to dive."
The 56-year-old from Lawrence recently claimed American and World records while competing in the American Outdoor National Diving Championships Aug. 5-7 at the AAF Rose Bowl Aquatic Center in Pasedena, Califorinia, and the XI FINA World Masters Aquatic Championships Aug. 13-16 at the Avery Aquatic Center, Maas Diving Pool at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.
That success is expected by Bennett’s fellow divers, whom she describes as family.
"The divers know," said Bennett. "They know I’m obsessive."
Bennett, a certified public accountant who works from home, practices most nights of the week with the Blue Dolphin Divers based out of The College of New Jersey in Ewing.
Bennett set an American and American World record while competing in the women’s 55-59 competition on the 3-meter board at the American Outdoor Nationals in Pasedena. Bennett scored a 385.05 off her dives to claim both records with her first-place finish.
Bennett set an American record with a score of 220.95 for first-place in the tower competition and won the gold medal with a score of 311.50 on the 1-meter board.
"It’s incomprehensible," said Bennett. "There’s nothing like breaking a world record."
At the FINA World Masters Aquatic Championships Bennett claimed a record in the one event she missed at the American Outdoor Nationals.
Bennett won the 1-meter Women’s 55-59 competition with a score of 207.90 for a FINA meet record and a FINA World record.
Bennett won the tower competition with a score of 192.25, and took second on the 3-meter board with a score of 210.15. Poland’s Regina Synoradzka won the 3-meter Women’s 55-59 competition with a score of 218.05 for a FINA World and meet record.
"It’s my fourth World Championship," said Bennett. "I know people from all over the world. They’re like family."
Her success in diving has taken Bennett all over the world. She has competed in competitions in Melbourne, Australia, Italy and Edmonton, Canada.
Bennett returned to the sport eight years ago after her divorce. She had participated in diving as a child and competed during her senior year of college, but threw herself fully into the sport as her son, John Sheppard, dove for the TCNJ Lions.
Working with the Blue Dolphins, Bennett excelled and quickly became eligible to compete in masters diving events like the world championships.
"You have to have enough dives," said Bennett listing the requirements, "and the money to get there."
Bennett gladly attends the championship meets to reunite with her friends in the sport.
"I wouldn’t miss it," said Bennett. "It’s incredible. If you can imagine loving something and being with people who feel exactly the same way you do. They share the same intensity I have for the sport."