Arizona's summer heat was rivaled only by the pressure created by the USA Diving's 2010 Speedo Junior and Age Group National Championships held in Tucson.
Six La Cañada divers tested their mettle on the national stage July 23-30, after high scores in regional tournaments qualified them for nationals. In eight days of competition, more than 500 of America's best junior divers competed for 52 titles.
Carolina Bender, Kara Bradley, Kyla Bradley, Walker Creedon, Sydney Okland and Madison Witt all made the 500-mile journey from La Cañada to Tucson for a crack at a medal, and a chance for each to prove they are one of the best young divers in the country.
The top 12 finishers in each event earned a medal. No local diver returned empty-handed, as every athlete captured at least two.
Witt is the only member of the group who doesn't compete for the Rose Bowl Aquatic Divers. Instead, she is a member of USC-based Trojan Dive Club.
Creedon was the only boy representing La Cañada at the Arizona competition. In the 11-and-under boys grouping, he finished seventh on platform (184.95), ninth on 3-meter (204.00) and 14th on the 1-meter (184.75) in Junior Nationals.
Kara Bradley and Okland dove in the 11-and-under girls' section. Kara was as fifth on platform (173.55), ninth in 1-meter (206.55) and 20th on 3-meter (183.70) in Junior Nationals.
Kara Bradley said she was nervous going into the competition, but as time went on, she became more comfortable.
"You just try to sit by yourself and not talk to people so you can focus on your dive," she said.
Okland earned sixth on the 3-meter (170.70) and ninth on platform (115.85) in the Age Group Nationals.
Bender, Kyla Bradley and Witt all competed in the 12-13-year-old girls' division. Bender came in 13th on platform (241.90) in Junior Nationals and sixth on the 1-meter (223.65) and sixth on 3-meter (262.30) in Age Group Nationals.
Bender ended up meeting her goal of finishing in the top 10 on the 1- and 3-meter spring boards.
"I improved my scores on both boards," Bender said. "It's my personal goal to always be improving on my national ranking."
Kyla Bradley finished third on platform (251.85) and 10th on 1-meter (216.25) in the Age Group Nationals. She also dove in the 3-meter in Junior Nationals, placing 24th (232.70).
Witt placed in third on platform (294.25), fifth on 1-meter (259.65) and 14th in the 3-meter (249.45) in the Junior Nationals. Her Trojan Club team also won the women's national title at juniors.
Everyone has their own formula for success, and Witt is no exception.
"I'm my own biggest competitor," Witt said. "I just need to always rely on God, realize I can do it and stay focused and confident."
Witt didn't realize finishing third on platform in Junior Nationals qualified her for a spot on the 2010-11 National Junior Elite Performance Squad, until her mom told her. The junior elite performance squad acts a feeder system for the Senior Olympic Performance Squad, prepping divers for the 2016 and 2020 Olympics.
Even though she is honored to be considered, Witt said she isn't sure she wants to commit to the squad because of all the changes it would bring.
Right now, school is the main focus for Witt. She is concentrating on diving in high school and college, and hopefully wrapping it all up with a NCAA championship ring.
If the opportunity still presents itself, she'll look into Olympic diving after college.
"There are a few Olympians who dive with us on the Trojan diving club," Witt said. "I've seen how much they give up for the Olympics and I don't know if I want to give all that up yet."