Sometimes it can take years to become great.
Or, as with Northeastern diving standout Becca Gross, it can happen seemingly overnight.
Gross only picked up diving during her freshman year, but it sure seems like she's been at it forever. The Bobcat senior, who recently signed a letter of intent to dive for NCAA Division I Rutgers, is already a two-time York-Adams League champion in the competition.
"The first year was a little rough," said Gross, who credits her 12 years of gymnastics training for making the transition smoother. "The technique (in diving) is different than gymnastics, so you just have to get used to that."
Gross picked up diving with a York-area-based club team a few years ago and her ascent toward the top of the sport has been nothing less than remarkable.
"That's when I really got into it," said Gross, who earned a third-place medal at the PIAA Class AA meet back in 2011.
To think that Gross parlayed what was essentially an experiment with the sport into a full-blown college scholarship in less than three years is quite unusual.
"I was just trying to do something different," Gross said. "And do something that was school-related so I can do it during school."
You can add Northeastern coach Dan Schaeberle to the growing list of those who find what Gross has done over her short transition nearly incredible.
"She only started by doing two or three mornings a week," he said. "That was it. But you could see it ... she's got potential. Big-time potential. And I don't even think she's come close to reaching her potential just yet."
Her many achievements notwithstanding, Gross means more to Schaeberle and the Bobcat program than just the first-place points that she seemingly guarantees every meet. Success has brought on an aura of respect that Gross uses to help her teammates as a leader.
"She's a huge leader, especially with the divers," Schaeberle said. "Swimming and diving are so separate, but being a senior and having won a state medal, the swimmers go to her for leadership things. And she does a great job (with that)."
While Gross' ultimate goal is to win a District 3 and PIAA title in diving, doing so in her final campaign at Northeastern didn't get a heck of a lot easier. The Bobcat girls' program moved up to Class AAA this year, meaning Gross, who finished second in Class AA at districts and sixth at states a year ago, will likely face some tougher competition in the postseason.
"Everyone on my club team is in AAA this year," she said. "But I'd have to say that Julia Jagannath from Cedar Cliff is probably going to be my biggest competition."
Jagannath, who committed to the University of Massachusetts next year, is the defending Class AAA champion.
Following are some notes from around the league:
BOYS Division I
Dallastown won the past four Division I titles and Coach Rich Howley's team figures to be in position to make it five a row this year.
Howley can boast of more than 35 swimmers on the boys' side, including the core of a team that finished third at the District 3-AAA competition a year ago.
The Wildcats have a number of top performers returning this year, including Trevor Hine, Steven Paine, Corey Stauffer, Mason Tate, Braxton Erne, Noah Brockway and Keith O'Conor.
Howley, who dislikes picking favorites at this time of the year, feels the season won't lack drama.
"Looks like a great season can be had by all involved," he said. "We are so fortunate to be part of the YAIAA swimming tradition."
South Western will look to knock off the Wildcats once again this year. The Mustangs return the bulk of their lineup from a year ago under Coach Bill Sterner, who enters his 40th season leading the program.
Sterner will be able to rely on a number of returning standouts, including Jacob Green, Kieran Koehler and Nathan Mart.
"The team is also working toward a great championship season with lots of medal-winning performances," Sterner said.
Spring Grove, who finished in a tie for second with the Mustangs a year ago, also figure to be in the mix again. Coach Peggy Kile's team boasts the return of top performers Nick Trettel, Isaac Smith, Zack Fry, Nolan King, Austin Liberatore and Tyler Beckman.
" We expect to have a very successful season again this year," Kile said. "With a strong returning group of letter winners, the boys are working hard at practice and excited for the meets to begin."
Central York will look to improve to last year's 1-4 division record.
Their key returners are diver Gabe Patil, who was a league all-star a season ago, and Corey Wendt, who earned a medal in the league meet in the 100 butterfly.
The boys' numbers are up at Central, nearly doubling last year's roster to 22 boys.
"We're working very hard," Central coach Jim Gingerich said. "Our numbers are up, so that's a good sign."
Red Lion, meanwhile, will attempt to move out of the middle of the pack this season.
The Lions finished 2-3 in Division I a season ago.
The division could be up for grabs this season, with Dover, West York, Northeastern and York Suburban all contending.
West York has a number of experienced swimmers returning from last year's team, which finished 2-3 in the division. The Bulldogs are hoping to capture the school's first-ever swimming crown.
Coach David Tate, an assistant the past two years under former coach Jonathan Hoffman, will be able to look to Brady Bushover, Dayne Brindle, David Foery, Reed French, Jared Henderson and Ben Spangler for points and leadership.
"I love the fact that Division II boys' swimming has developed some parity," Tate said. "It seems like every year York Suburban contends for the championship and Dover has won it a couple times, but lately other teams have stepped up and challenged them. We think we can be in that group again this year."
Dover will look to rebound from a 2-3 finish a year ago.
Coach Rich Janosky, who's entering his 31st season at the helm of the program, will have a lot of returning talent to lean on, as the program returns to Class AA this season.
"We return a large number of underclassmen from last year's squad," Janosky said. "They include Dan Bollinger, Curtis Harman, Tyke McDaniel, Jacob Sterner and Alec Wolfe. This year's freshman class has several strong swimmers -- Hunter Link, Casey Marshall and Tyler Snyder."
Schaeberle is hoping to continue to build his program after a second-place finish a year ago at 4-1. The Bobcats, who downed Dover for the first-time ever last season, aren't especially deep, but do return some talent, including the duo of Devin Soop and Ben Linne.
"We have a very young boys' team with a lot of new swimmers," Schaeberle said. "The team should do well at districts, but we really lack depth in the stroke events."
Suburban ended Dover's two-year reign as champions by winning the division a year ago at 5-0.
Coach Craig Brennan will look to seniors Nolan Walker and Kyle Posenau, as well as juniors Alex Fridman, John Spinell and Will Massey to help Suburban repeat.
Susquehannock and New Oxford will also look to make some noise in the division.
Susquehannock finished 2-3 in the division last year, while New Oxford was winless.
GIRLS Division I
It's hard to pick against Dallastown, especially considering Howley's team has won the past eight titles (four division, four league).
The Wildcats only have 23 swimmers on the roster, but many of them have been top performers, such as Liz Rothrock, Erica Wise and Alyssa Bixler.
Spring Grove, the last team to claim a division title over Dallastown, figures to be improved this year after a down campaign (1-4) a season ago. An influx of freshmen and some girls who didn't swim for the Rockets a year ago are ready to make a difference.
"The number of girls swimming and diving has increased," Kile said. "Last season we had no girl divers and this year we have seven. So overall that will help with our team scoring. We also have some girls returning who did not swim for the team last year and we have strong incoming freshmen. With these additions we are looking to improve upon last year's record."
South Western will have a young lineup -- highlighted by sophomore Allison Sell -- as Sterner's team looks to compete for a division title. The Mustangs were 2-3 last year.
"All swimmers will have to contribute great swims for the team to have a winning season," Sterner said.
Central will look to senior Jade Arganbright to lead the team toward success this year.
Arganbright finished second a year ago in both the 100 free and 100 back at the league meet. Mea Michaels and Taylor Reed also earned medals at the league meet.
Central took third in the division last year at 3-2.
Red Lion finished second the division a year ago at 4-1.
The Lions will have to replace Morgan Pfaff, a silver medalist in the 100 backstroke and bronze medalist in the 200 individual medley at the PIAA meet a year ago.
Coach Dave Wiest's team, however, can look to senior Jesse North and sophomore Courtney Schaefer to help lead the Lions this year.
Dover again looks to be the favorite to capture a third division title in a row this year.
Janosky has nearly every one of his girls returning from a squad that finished seventh as a team at the District 3-AAA meet a year ago.
The Eagles' list of standouts include Janosky's daughter, Aniella, as well as Summer Dacheux, Bree Link, Nicole Smith, Rachel Spaulding and Morgan Stambaugh.
"We're returning all of our top swimmers from last year's squad," Janosky said. "The versatility of our swimmers to swim different individual events based upon the team's need versus our opponents may be their biggest strength. We have several swimmers who can swim all three relays in different strokes and positions."
Suburban and Northeastern figure to be best equipped to give Dover a run for its money. Suburban took second a year ago at 4-1, while Northeastern was 3-2.
The Trojans feature senior Erin Merkle, who won the gold in Class AA at districts in both the 100 fly and the 100 back a year ago. Brennan's team also includes returning standouts such as Zowie Day, Anna Schmittle, Emily Schmittle, Bekah Buchanan and Helen Gunn.
Along with Gross, the Bobcats will get another big boost with the addition of junior phenom Niki Price to the program. Price, who has competed under the guidance of York YMCA coach Michael Brooks the past two years, was part of a 200 medley relay team that broke the national record at the 2012 Short Course YMCA National Championships. That same quartet also took first-place in the 400 medley relay.
"She should medal in the top three in AAA at states," said Schaeberle, who noted that Price will continue to swim for the YMCA team, too. "And that is pretty much in any event that she wants to."
Senior Renea Luckenbaugh, who finished fifth in the 50 free at the league meet a year ago, should also bring some leadership to a team that figures to be on the rise.
"We have a very talented and young girls' team," Schaeberle said. "Our girls should do very well throughout the season. We will contend with Dover and York Suburban, but we still lack the depth that those teams have right now."
West York went winless a year ago, but Tate is hoping that the trio of Jahna Alleyne, Britney Stottlemyer and Amber Updegraff can help lead the team toward success.
"We finished last year with only eight girls," Tate said. "It's actually really tough being a small school with so many successful athletic programs. Our high school teams end up competing with each other for athletes. But we're working very hard to bring more new swimmers to the team and I think we're making great progress."
New Oxford and Susquehannock will hope to surprise everyone and show some improvement this season.
New Oxford was 1-4 last year, while Susquehannock was 2-3.
-- Reach Ryan Vander sloot at sports@yorkdis patch.com.