University of Rochester

Sports: Swimming & Diving

McHale Dives to Success

Patricia McHale ’06
RECORD BOOKS: McHale, who was inducted into three honor societies as a mechanical engineering major, posted Rochester’s all-time high marks on the one- and three-meter diving boards.

If you want to be a competitive diver like Patricia McHale ’06, there’s really only one way to overcome a fear of heights.

“You just suck it up,” McHale says.

That’s certainly what McHale did to overcome what she describes as her initial nervousness about climbing the ladder and standing over the pool. She did it so well that she became one of the best collegiate divers in Division III.

McHale, who graduated in May with a degree in mechanical engineering, nearly qualified for the NCAA Division III diving championships during the 2005–06 season. (She qualified provisionally but wasn’t among the divers chosen to compete in the title meet.)

Along the way, she became one of the most storied women divers in Yellowjacket history, posting the program’s all-time high marks on both the one-meter and three-meter boards.

Not bad for someone who was reluctant to even get on the board. “It’s a little scary,” she says with a smile.

McHale started diving when a knee injury made it impossible for her to pursue her childhood passion of gymnastics. She dove for one year in high school and came to Rochester relatively green.

But women’s diving coach Greg Brandes says McHale’s work ethic took her to new heights—both literally and figuratively.

“She wants to be the best at everything, in school and on the boards,” he says. “She works extra hard and never gives up. She’ll do everything I’ll ask. Some kids would say no. Patricia never says no. She’s been like that all the years she’s been here.”

McHale says she’s driven by the belief that she can always get better.

“You see people who are doing better than you, and you think, ‘What’s so much better about them?’ ” she says. “You believe that you can do it, too, and you keep working hard to get there.”

And, she says, it all came together during her senior season. “Everything just kind of clicked this year,” she says. “I figured this was my last year—I might as well go out with a bang.”

While her diving needed time to develop, McHale has always found success in the classroom. As of her last semester, she had a 4.0 grade point average, had been inducted into three honor societies, worked as a TA in the engineering department, and did design work for the Army. Last spring she received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research fellowship to pursue a graduate degree in mechanical engineering at Stanford University, where she plans to focus on alternative and sustainable energy.

Mechanical engineering professor Sheryl Gracewski says McHale’s dependability sets her apart.

“Patricia is very organized and conscientious,” Gracewski says. “I can count on her to get the grading done on time, even if she has exams to study for. She also has a high aptitude, understands concepts quickly, and does well in all her classes.”

McHale acknowledges that her academic workload can be stressful, but that’s where a stress-reliever like diving comes in. “I kind of use diving as my fun thing,” says McHale, who also was one of the swimming and diving team’s fastest sprint swimmers. “It’s definitely taking a break from classes.”

And even though she still has twinges of fear when she stands on the board and looks down at the water, she’ll always love it.

“I miss it already,” she says.

—Ryan Whirty