China or bust: Penor receives unexpected invitation to join exchange team


The Mirror

Heather Penor never really thought of herself as a diver. The Federal Way High School junior is a state-caliber gymnast and didn’t start competing in the sport of diving until the first day of turnouts last school year.

So when a letter showed up in the mail, inviting her to join the Washington Cultural Exchange Swim and Dive Team for a trip to China during Spring Break, Penor was a little skeptical.

“I opened it up and thought this can’t be right,” she said. “I didn’t think I did that good in diving. But then I talked to (Federal Way High School teacher Teri) Tuttle and she said it wasn’t a hoax.”

Tuttle went to China during her high school years as a track athlete with the Washington Cultural Exchange program and advised Penor to accept the invitation. During the past 19 years, 694 high school swimmers and divers from the state have participated in the 10-day cultural exchange to Hong Kong and Guangzhou, China. This year’s trip will run from April 6 to 15 and is being coached by Roosevelt High School’s JoEllen Hathaway and Rogers’ Heather Hoskins.

As a sophomore, Penor qualified for the West Central District Championships in her first season as a diver, but wasn’t really a factor in the competition.

This fall, she finished ninth out of 34 divers despite a shoulder injury at the district championships — three spots

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