Kendall Hollimon, the CMS diver who has never lost a SCIAC title, hopes to make one final splash at NCAAs

A man wearing a shirt that says "I am a Man" stands in front of some trees and smiles.
Kendall Hollimon CM ’20 has won eight SCIAC titles over his four years in CMS diving and has the second-best scores in CMS history for both diving events. (Alyssa Leong • The Student Life)

For many NCAA athletes, winning one conference championship is a tremendous feat. But for Kendall Hollimon CM ’20, taking home SCIAC titles has become routine.

This past weekend, the senior Claremont-Mudd-Scripps diver claimed the one- and three-meter SCIAC Championships, completing a perfect eight-for-eight sweep of conference championships throughout his decorated four-year career.

Hollimon finished the one-meter dive with a score of 484, edging out Ben Willett PZ ’22 by more than 30 points. In the three-meter dive, he earned a score of 532.40, nearly 30 points ahead of the second-place Jem Stern PO ’22.

His nonchalant reaction to his remarkable string of victories demonstrated his easygoing personality.

“Dive practice is during lunch, which means a lot of the times I’m not able to eat meals with my friends, and I’m always rushing to go to the Hub in between practice and my classes,” Hollimon said. “It’s just really, really tiring and takes up a lot of time. Being able to win SCIACs, at least it’s good to see that I wasn’t missing lunch for no reason.”

While Hollimon has owned the SCIAC over the last four years, he wasn’t always a dominant diver — he got his aquatic start in swimming instead. At the age of 9, the Southern California native started taking lessons at the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center in Pasadena.

“My parents wouldn’t let me not do something after school,” Hollimon explained, “so I had to pick up an instrument or do art or do a sport, and so I thought I wanted to do swimming.”

However, he quickly grew bored.

“I show up, and the people are going back and forth, and they’re breathing. And then they’re going back and forth. And then they’re going back and forth,” he said.

After watching the divers at the Rose Bowl, he knew he wanted to get on the diving board.

“Wait a sec, that dude over there literally just did a bunch of flips — I gotta sign up for that,” he recounted.

Despite the fact that Hollimon has dominated the SCIAC for four straight years, he has still seen a measurable amount of growth in his time as a CMS diver.

“I came in, and I had dives that are a lot easier than the ones that I’m doing now,” he said. “Over the course of my four years here, it’s been great because I’ve had coaches that push me to continue to grow and improve, and I’ve had competitors who were doing way harder dives than me.” 

“I’m like, ‘Oh wait, bet. Oh word, I can do that. Let’s try that.’ Really, trying to catch the people ahead of me and stay[ing] ahead of the people behind me has been the main reason why I’ve been developing and learning new dives.”

Hollimon is also motivated by the joy he gets from performing a dive well.

“It’s really exhilarating to get in the water and come up knowing that you did your dive well,” he said. “That’s one of my favorite experiences ever. That’s what I’m constantly chasing. Every time I do a subpar dive, I’m chasing the satisfaction of knowing that I did my dive well, which is what drives me to keep on going.”

After nailing a dive, Hollimon’s joy shows, according to CMS diving coach Ivan Bondarenko.

“He gets so excited when he puts a good dive in. He dances a little bit, he sings a little bit,” Bondarenko said.

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Teammate Abai Houser CM ’22 praised Hollimon’s work ethic.

“Kendall really is [representative] of our dive team — hardworking, comes into practice every day, ego isn’t big. He’s extremely coachable — a coach’s dream. I’ve never heard him complain about anything. Always working hard at lift, even when he’s going through injuries,” Houser said.

Bondarenko echoed this sentiment.

“His work ethic is just phenomenal. He’s respectful. He’s coachable, which is really important. He’s just a great human being,” he said.

Though he has been so dominant on the boards, some of Hollimon’s favorite moments as a CMS diver have come outside of the pool, including the team’s ritual choreographed dance before every meet.

“It’s so goofy, and we’re so corny for this, but I’m really, really proud to be the team that has the most fun,” he said. “We just have such a good team culture and such good camaraderie — everyone is always supporting each other. I’m proud whenever I do well, but I’m more proud to be part of an accepting team.”

As “the backbone of the team,” Hollimon is a big part of the team’s tight-knit culture and is “probably the reason why I came here,” Houser said.

Outside of diving, Hollimon enjoys writing for The Golden Antlers, which is “my favorite activity I’ve ever done.” Unsurprisingly, he also loves singing and dancing.

After graduation, Hollimon plans on pursuing a career either in public office or as a social justice lawyer. But for now, Hollimon will have one final mission as a Stag diver — taking home a national championship.

He finished third in the country last season in the three-meter, and will certainly have a shot to finish his CMS career with a national title.

“This time, [NCAAs] is a culmination of all I’ve been working for. It’s crazy ‘cause in diving, one wrong step and you can’t really come back,” Hollimon said. “It’s crazy knowing that it’s partially up to chance. But that’s why we practice. Of course I could mess up, but I don’t plan on it. All I can do is keep performing like I have.”

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