Triplets Nicholas, left, Stephenie, and Christopher Gunn sit atop the 10-meter platform at Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

Triplets Nicholas, left, Stephenie, and Christopher Gunn sit atop the 10-meter platform at Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

Triple threat in the dive tank

Gunn triplets aim for state, national competitions in 2019

You aren’t seeing double, but you may be seeing triple at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.

At just 16 years old, triplets Stephenie, Christopher and Nicholas Gunn are starting to make a name for themselves in the diving world by competing on both the Todd Beamer High School dive team and Pacific Northwest Dive Club team.

The juniors have been diving for nearly six years, following their eight-year gymnastics careers competing for Auburn Gymnastics Club.

As all-around gymnasts, the three siblings’ strength and flexibility made for an easy transition into the pool, they agreed.

The Gunns are slender and tall, although not identical in physical features or personalities. Stephenie is a bit more shy than her outgoing brothers. And before you ask — Christopher is the oldest by about a minute, followed by Stephenie, then Nicholas.

In November, Stephenie took third in state at the WIAA 4A girls state competition for the first time. Last February, Nicholas took sixth place at the WIAA 4A boys state competition and placed eighth in 2017, which Christopher narrowly missed by one placing. He and Christopher also placed in the top 50 at the USA Diving National Championships in 2017, with Nicholas placing again in 2018.

Nicholas is hoping for a place in the top three this year at state, he said.

“This year it’s going to be crazy,” he said about the state competition to be held Feb. 15-16 in Federal Way. “The top eight are all from our club, Pacific Northwest Dive Club.”

It’s these moments of tough competition that bring out family rivalry, Nicholas said.

“It’s fun, but at the same time it’s really competitive and frustrating sometimes,” he said.

While at the end of the day the three always root for each other, it can be difficult to see the others succeed when you aren’t doing as well as you’d hope, Nicholas said.

“Chris was better than me at gymnastics forever and he would always beat me, but now it’s flip-flopped and I beat him more,” Nicholas said.

As for Stephenie, she’s always competed with her brothers and said she doesn’t know anything different, although November’s state competition was new territory.

“I wasn’t really nervous in the meets going up to state because I had been there, I had done it all before,” said Stephenie, who was seeded going into state, and ultimately placed third. “But state was pretty nerve-wracking.”

The Gunns’ club team, Pacific Northwest Dive, is coached by owner Robert (Bob) Ketrick. The Gunns are also coached by former San Jose State University dive coach Mark Butcher, while their high school season is coached by Olympian Kelly Robertson, formerly known as Kelly McCormick.

“I’ve never coached triplets,” said Robertson, who has been a household name herself as an athlete and coach since the 1980s. “But they answer questions for each other, they’re always critiquing each other. So I think that is different right there, just how they’re connected.”

On the diving board, Nick has got a great rip, Stephenie is consistent, and Chris is just coming into his own, Robertson said.

Despite doing the same sport, they’re all drawn to it for bold reasons.

“It’s like an adrenaline rush every time you get up there,” Nicholas said about his love for diving. “The fear and the height… I don’t like being up that high [on platform], but it’s fun.”

Christopher echoed this, adding: “It’s fun just chucking yourself off of something and see what happens.”

“My favorite part is when you go, and there’s no turning back,” Stephenie said. “You just have to figure it out.”

Each Gunn diver has their favorite trick: Stephenie enjoys twisters and platform diving while Nicholas prefers back dives and inwards on one-meter springboard. Christopher would rather throw front one-and-a-half double twists on three-meter springboard.

“When you’re trying a new dive, it is definitely hard to actually go. That’s one of the hardest parts for me,” Stephenie said. “But once I get going, I just tell myself I can’t turn back.”

A recent highlight for Stephenie was diving off of the 10-meter platform for the very first time, she said.

“My first dive I was doing a front one-and-a-half with a hurdle and you can’t see off the end, so that definitely helps me being able to just go,” she said. “When I try to do an armstand dive, or anything where you’re watching the water, that’s a lot scarier. I just really like platform diving because if something’s not going how you want it, you have time to fix it.”

The USA Diving Junior Nationals will be held this summer in Knoxville, Tennessee, from July 30 to Aug. 5, and the triplets are all gunning for a spot.

When club dive season overlaps with high school dive season, the triplets dive five to six hours a day. On weekends, weather permitting, the Gunns utilize their home setup of two trampolines and two dry boards for practicing hurdles and form on land.

The Todd Beamer juniors attend Green River Community College through the Running Start program — on top of their high school dive seasons and year-round club practices and competitions.

At Green River, Stephenie is earning her pre-nursing degree and aims to work in the medical field. Nicholas and Christopher are working toward pre-engineering degrees in hopes of becoming an aeronautical engineer and airforce pilot, respectively.

With graduation still more than year away, the three agreed they do plan to dive at a collegiate level, but in the meantime will focus on earning their state, regional, and national glory.

Christopher, left, Stephenie, and Nicholas dive for Todd Beamer High School and also compete on Pacific NW Diving club. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

Christopher, left, Stephenie, and Nicholas dive for Todd Beamer High School and also compete on Pacific NW Diving club. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

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