YAKIMA, Wash. -- Beyond pure talent, one element elevating an athlete is a rivalry.
That’s not surprising; just look at some high-profile pairings — Brady had Manning, Bird had Magic, McGwire had Sosa. Competing against the best often brings out the best.
What’s unusual is finding that rival right across the dinner table at home.
Since arriving as freshmen at Naches Valley High two seasons ago, David and Daniel Whitmore have been among the best divers in the state, quickly displaying a natural talent for the sport.
But what has set the twin brothers apart is their ability to draw motivation from the other, helping spur themselves to higher levels.
“If he tries a new dive, I can’t let him have it by himself,” said a smiling David Whitmore, who took third in the Class 2A-1A state meet last season after taking eighth as a freshman. “We watch the scores. If he has fives (on a dive) I have to get 5 1/2s. It pushes both of us.”
“It’s a very healthy competition,” agreed Daniel Whitmore, who has posted back-to-back 10th-place state finishes.
There’s little doubt the close-knit competition has been beneficial, according to West Valley coach Jake Kessler, who works with the brothers in a cooperative arrangement.
“The best competition is your brother — especially if it’s a twin,” he said.
Gaining a competitive edge is not the only aspect of their relationship. The pair share a close bond, constantly working together to help the other improve.
“We have the same dives ... and we watch each other and tell the other what they can be doing better,” David said.
That shared drive and determination melds perfectly with their talent, leading to success in a remarkably short period of time.
The brothers achieved state-level success in their freshman season, even though that was the first time they had climbed on a diving board and just two years after they took up competitive swimming.
“It came very natural for them,” West Valley dive coach Heidi Tollackson said, adding that the twins’ background in gymnastics made them perfect candidates to dive.
“Gymnastics helped a lot,” David said. “It took a little time to adjust but ... it really just transferred over.”
With a background doing flips, albeit on a trampoline rather than a diving board, the twins had a solid base for diving. It was simply a matter of making the transition.
“We knew how to flip, but we had to learn how to control our bodies on the board,” Daniel said, adding that their biggest obstacle was mental not physical.
“In gymnastics, you don’t land on your hands much and, for me, being close to the board was an adjustment,” he continued. “It’s mental. Those things are in your head and you just have to get over them and do it.”
Conquering the mental challenges is just another quality of the brothers, Tollackson said.
“Besides just physically being able to do the dives, mentally, they are able to focus better than most of the kids I’ve had,” said Tollackson, adding that having that complete package of abilities has allowed both to steadily increase the difficulty of their dives, improving their chances to succeed at state each season.
That is their goal again, with both drawing added motivation from last season’s state showing. An error in their dive order caused both to lose the score of one dive — with Daniel’s lost dive particularly costly because he said it was his best one.
“That pushes me to be better this year,” Daniel said.
Not unlike the constant motivation he draws from his brother — and provides in return.