Commitment Feature: Ashley Loh and Avari Wang

Stephanie Wang, Staff Writer

As the 2022-2023 school year comes to a close, it’s once again that time of year for senior athletes to bid a teary farewell to their home of four years. While it’s a time of nostalgic endings, the end of the school year also brings much to look forward to; for the aspiring, high-achieving athlete, this can mean participating in a final CIF championship or committing to the college of their dreams.

Among the many talented athletes at Arcadia High School (AHS), a big congratulations to Ashley Loh and Avari Wang, two senior divers on the AHS Varsity Swim and Dive team, who have finalized their college commitments. Loh will be attending Williams College in Williamstown, MA, while Wang will head off to Duke University in Durham, NC, in the fall.

Loh and Wang’s journey to becoming committed athletes has been years in the making; both athletes began diving at a young age, first joining a club team before competing for the school’s team. For Loh, diving runs in the family, and she got her first introduction to diving from her aunt and cousins, while Wang got her start into diving as a member of her swim team. Wang humorously recalls being scared to jump off the diving board as a swimmer, leading her father to encourage her to join diving. 

In addition to diving at their personal club team, both Loh and Wang have been diving competitively for the school team throughout their high school careers, balancing their academics with diving along with their additional extracurricular activities.

Loh, who practiced diving from 4:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. during the pandemic into junior year, mentioned the difficulty of trying to maintain her academic chops while also competing on the highest level as a diver. In addition to her rigorous training, Loh also cited the physical and mental toughness that diving requires—a sport which literally involves plummeting (artistically) into a pool. 

“I remember all the smacks that the beautiful water gave me—all my bruises and scratches on my leg,” said Loh. “Because diving—it’s so mental. If you think you’re going to hit the board, you’re most likely going to hit the board, so you have to keep telling yourself to just focus on what you need to do and not what not to do, like falling flat on your stomach or your back.”

Aside from the physical rigor demanded by the sport, the pandemic, which brought high school sports to a grinding halt, didn’t help either. While the divers both competed at CIF State Championships in their senior year, one of the most prestigious sporting events that high school athletes can participate in, the spread of COVID-19 canceled CIF meets, as well as many of the facilities that Loh and Wang used to train.

“With no end in sight to the pandemic, it was difficult to predict what would become of our team and our athletes, especially in a time just before recruiting season,” said Wang. “It was finally in senior year, when our season resumed back to normal, that I finally got the chance to represent Arcadia on the biggest stage and perform well at CIF state [championships].”

However, despite these challenges, Loh still greatly appreciates her sport, and relishes in the adrenaline that accompanies each dive as well as the feeling of accomplishment that comes with mastering a new dive, a feat that takes consistency and practice over many months. To Loh, one of her greatest accomplishments as a diver took place during a training trip to Iowa, in which she learned four new dives during the trip.

“I felt good about myself because I was able to push through the mental things that were stopping me. I knew I had the muscles and everything else—it was just my head telling me I couldn’t do it,” said Loh. “It’s built my pain tolerance and my mental toughness, which I’m grateful for.”

In addition to the physical and mental enrichment that diving has brought them, Loh and Wang’s accomplishments in the sport also allowed them to get a leg up in the college admissions process.

While most high school students mostly only have college applications to look forward (or dread), Loh and Wang needed to start contacting and reaching out to college coaches during their junior year, and even at the end of sophomore year, a process that would hopefully result in a recruiting trip to tour the campus and meet the team.

Wang, who will be attending Duke University in the fall, “ultimately chose Duke for many reasons, including the undoubtedly prestigious academics and athletics, the super welcoming atmosphere of the team, the endless opportunities on campus, and of course, the amazing dining hall.” 

In particular, Wang appreciates that Duke “is so diverse and has so many strengths in a multitude of fields”, which would allow her to fully “explore these before making a final decision” on her professional future.

For Loh, who will be attending Williams College in the fall and hopes to pursue economics or psychology, her recruiting trip cemented her decision to apply Early Decision, and eventually commit, to the college.

“Sometimes I would visit a college and I didn’t feel like I really clicked with them, and it wasn’t my vibe,” said Loh. “Whereas, with Williams, all the recruits go along with all the teammates, and all the students walking around campus were all so friendly—you could tell it was really genuine.”

Additionally, Loh also cites the surroundings of the college as another factor for her commitment.

“The mascot is a purple cow, and you can go on a hike and sometimes you’ll see cows,” added Loh. “I saw a cow and took pictures with it, and it just makes you more in tune with nature.”

With their high school careers coming to a close, and bright futures as collegiate student-athletes on the horizon, Loh and Wang took a moment to reflect on their journeys as both students and athletes.

“It’s not all about grades, not about your extracurriculars. Time is really valuable and be intentional with it,” said Loh, on advice she would offer her younger self. “Everything has an impact on each other, and try not to overthink because everything will work out in the end.”

“All the hard work and effort [will] be worth it in the end, so don’t worry so much!” Wang added.

Whatever their future holds, Loh and Wang are undoubtedly ready to dive into the next big chapter of their lives.

Photos courtesy of Arcadia DCI Instagram