A couple of generations ago, Los Alamos dominated the state boys swimming and diving meet, winning 14 of 18 championships from 1974 through 1991, including a glorious stretch of nine in a row.
But then the bigger schools in Albuquerque began to exert control of the sport and the Hilltoppers had wins only in 2004 and 2005 to show for their efforts.
Buoyed by a stellar performance in the diving portion of the meet, Los Alamos unexpectedly surged to the championship last February.
For those efforts, longtime dive coach Carl Cady was recently named the state’s swim and dive coach of the year by the New Mexico High School Coaches Association.
He was one of only two local coaches so lauded, as Gerard Chavez of St. Michael’s was named the boys basketball assistant coach of the year.
Los Alamos head swim coach Stu Corliss said the honor was well deserved.
“They scored a ton of points in diving, and they’ve done a good job year in and year out, both on the boys side and on the girls side,” he said. “Diving could be really lonely in New Mexico but, when you get a group, it really helps a lot.”
The Hilltoppers earned 43 points from divers Braden Stidham (third), Daniel Fryer (fifth) and Kyle Hatler (seventh), all of whom return this coming season, along with senior Griffin Stidham (16th).
And just how important was that contribution?
Los Alamos finished with 377 points and runner-up Albuquerque Academy 372, with the Chargers collecting just 12 points from the event, a 31-point swing.
Still, Cady said he was not expecting to be recognized.
“It was quite a surprise,” he said. “The diving aspect of swimming and diving is one event out of a large swim meet of competition. We’re just one small part of the entire team. Being recognized as coach of the year for the program is very much an honor for me and my co-coach, Glenn Banks, and all the divers.”
Cady, an engineer at Los Alamos National Laboratories, was a former diver for the Hilltoppers, graduating from Los Alamos High in 1982.
He earned his degree from the University of New Mexico, but did not dive for the Lobos as he kind of outgrew the sport, sprouting to 6-foot, 5-inches.
But after returning to his hometown, he joined the Hilltoppers staff in 2002 as the assistant dive coach.
“Everything I learned about coaching came from Keith Greene, who was the coach before me,” Cady said. “We did it as a team. Team coaching. He had a lot more experience and was more advanced. I would take the first beginner divers and get them the skills necessary to get off the board and then pass them up to the more experienced coach as they got better.”
That’s one of the big jobs of diving coaches because most divers come to the sport from other disciplines, like gymnastics.
“We know they’re not afraid to do it, but giving them the confidence to try is where most of our work goes,” he said. “I get the most enjoyment when I see the kids succeed and do it for the first time, and then do it again and again and again.”
Cady took over the diving program three years ago when Greene moved on.
“We get success when they have success,” Cady said of the coach-diver relationship. “It’s giving them the opportunity for them to succeed and I wouldn’t have gotten this award if they weren’t good athletes. I couldn’t give you enough words to tell you how much that means to the whole program.”
Corliss said he’s happy to see Cady and the program earn the recognition.
“Carl Cady, he’s a quiet guy, a cerebral guy,” Corliss said. “I’m proud of him. He’s not a backslapper kind of guy. Any time the Hilltoppers get recognized, it’s a good thing.”