//Grounded, and Flying High

Grounded, and Flying High

Shaker Heights High School Senior Lyle Yost is an elite diver with dreams and priorities beyond the pool.

By Jennifer Kuhel

Shaker Heights diver Lyle Yost in mid-air

Before Lyle Yost joined the Shaker Heights High School Swimming and Diving Team four years ago, event number five — boys and girls one-meter springboard diving — was, more or less, an intermission for both spectators and swimmers.

Today, the status of event five has been elevated: It’s the must-see halftime show. “Lyle has reinvigorated an interest in watching diving,” says SHHS Swimming and Diving Coach Eric Peterson. “There are some people who come to our meets now just to see the diving. And once they see him, they know they may not ever see anything like him again, ever.”

Indeed, to have seen this senior diver is to have witnessed greatness. Lyle really is that good. He is the number one men’s diving recruit in the United States for his graduating class. He is the current USA Diving Boys Junior National Champion in two events: the onemeter springboard and platform. Last July, Lyle finished 12th in the world in the boys one-meter springboard at the FINA World Junior Diving Championships in Kiev, Ukraine.

Last December, he and his synchronized diving partner, Ohio State freshman Jacob Fielding, placed third in the three-meter men’s synchro at the USA Diving Winter Trials, a finish that enables them to represent the United States in the World University Games in July 2019 in Naples, Italy. Lyle’s individual performance in the three-meter springboard at the USA Diving Winter Trials also earned him a spot to compete in the 2020 Olympic Trials. Lyle holds the pool records for each high school pool he’s competed in within Northeast Ohio. And this past February, Lyle became the first three-time, back-to-back-to-back Ohio High School Division I Boys Diving State Champion since 1961.

Lyle was courted by more than 40 Division I college diving programs, and last November, he signed his national letter of intent to join the diving team at The Ohio State University, where he currently plans to study linguistics. “His diving is way beyond next level,” says SHHS Athletic Director Don Readance. “And even better, he’s such a bright, likable kid.”

This past February, Lyle became the first three-time, back-to-back-to-back Ohio High School Division I Boys Diving State Champion since 1961.

Even beyond his diving resume, Lyle is a remarkable human being. He is a candidate in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, a rigorous, two-year course of study that prepares students for the world’s leading universities and life beyond. For the Programme’s culminating event, the 4,000-word Extended Essay, Lyle wrote an analysis of the lyrics of Latin American protest songs – and he wrote it in Spanish (he is the only SHHS Diploma Programme Candidate to write his Extended Essay in a non-native language).

He’s also an artist who enjoys painting and working with multiple media. He is a doting older brother to his four younger siblings, none of whom are divers. For many years, Lyle has enlisted his friends to spend occasional Friday nights at the Church of the Saviour Breathe Respite program, an evening of respite for families of children with special needs. Above all, this Spanish-language and travel enthusiast has an unusual perspective on what diving means to him.

“My main goal is to use diving as a tool to travel,” he says. “In some sports, the payoff for all your years of hard work is the winning, which is great, but for me, it’s incredibly motivating that I work hard at this and then I have the opportunity to go to Cuba, or to Germany, or Ukraine, or Italy. When the hard work pays off and I visit new countries, or try new food or meet new people, that’s the best part about it.”

The Early Years

What Lyle’s mother, Tina Yost, recalls from Lyle’s early years was his desire to be a part of whatever was going on around him. “When he was three and would watch Peter Pan on the TV, he would pause the movie and leave the room to put on a Peter Pan costume,” Tina says. “Then he would come back, play the movie and stand on the back of the couch, taking Peter Pan’s posture.”

Lyle also displayed a remarkable ability to mimic what he saw. As an elementary school student, he began watching YouTube videos of freerunning and parkour and eventually taught himself to do a standing backflip. His risk-taking was entertaining, albeit unsettling, so Tina suggested that Lyle take his talents to a safer environment.

When Lyle was eight years old, she signed him up for diving lessons at American Flyers Diving Club in Solon. His early days weren’t promising.

Lyle Yost sitting on diving board

Lyle Yost at Woodbury Pool

“He had the ability and the body to be a good diver, but he was technically a pretty bad diver,” says his coach at American Flyers, Marc Cahalane. “On the USA Diving scene, he was often second to last or last and he spent a lot of time being upset and a lot of time not being the best.”

The turning point came when Lyle was 12. He entered a competition with dives that had the lowest degree of difficulty, but he finished with the highest scoring average. “He realized that he didn’t have to perform big dives to do well,” Cahalane says. The fourth place finish whetted Lyle’s appetite for more.

At 14, Lyle scored well enough at Nationals to earn a spot on the team traveling to the 2015 Junior PanAm Games in Cuba. For Cahalane, the experience was memorable because it was Lyle’s first international competition.

For Lyle, the experience was memorable because he saw that the Spanish classes he’d been taking at school had real world applications. “I remember going to the pool and there were people speaking English, Spanish, French, Portuguese — all these different languages. I made some friends who were kind enough to let me stutter along, but I realized that if I could speak a different language, then the number of people that I could interact with would double or triple,” Lyle says. “So my next goal was to be able to speak Spanish at the PanAm Games in 2017.”

Which is precisely what he did. At the 2017 PanAm Games in Victoria, Canada, Lyle reconnected with all of his Spanish-speaking friends and was paid a high compliment from the Mexican coach, whose English was limited.

“He told me that Lyle was 90 percent fluent in Spanish,” remembers Cahalane. “And then Lyle went off and spoke to other kids using their Spanish dialects. He’s incredible.”

Priorities and Hard Work

Lyle’s formula for success doesn’t involve a sacrifice-everything-for-diving rule. On the contrary, Lyle succeeds because he is self-aware and seeks a balanced life. “Having priorities is important,” Lyle says.

A typical day consists of two and a half hours of practice in the evening, training with a personal trainer once a week and two or three hours of practice on weekends. “I will not stay up until 1 am, ever. I prioritize sleep because I know that if I’m not sleeping well, then I won’t be productive and I won’t do well at practice or at school. I know I’m not that productive at night, so for most of high school, I’ve gotten up at 4:30 am when my mind is clearer and I work faster.”

When competition keeps him away from school for days at a time, Lyle reaches out to his teachers on his own and makes up his work. Lyle also has prioritized making the most of his experience as a member of the SHHS Swimming and Diving Team. He attends every meet (unless he’s at a national or international competition) and stays through the end, cheering on his swimming and diving teammates.

“At its most basic level, diving is an individual sport, but there’s also an important team aspect to it,” he says. “You get that a lot with a club team, but the high school swimming team is a change of pace from a diving competition. There’s a different energy and that’s something I enjoy.”

Cahalane says that Lyle possesses a rare emotional intelligence. Lyle is slow and methodical. He’s always watching, always observing and processing information, whether he’s watching someone do a dive or whether he sees that one of his teammates needs a boost,” he says.

What’s Next?

Many who have watched Lyle in competition locally ask the same question: will Lyle compete in the Olympics?

The answer to that depends on who’s answering. Cahalane says that the 2020 Olympics is a possibility for Lyle, although 2024 looks promising, as well. In 2024, Lyle will have just completed his collegiate career and will have had four years to develop physically. “When divers are young, most of what they achieve is with mechanics. With Lyle, it will be fun to see what he can do now that he can add power,” he says.

Lyle’s goals are shorter-term. “I’m excited to dive at Ohio State because it’s a place where I can have an impact and enjoy doing the sport that I love with people who will enjoy it with me. There’s an energy at Ohio State that I connected with and it’s a good fit for me.”

To have seen this senior diver is to have witnessed greatness. Lyle really is that good.

As for diving after college, Lyle says he’ll cross that bridge when he gets to it. His mother says she was surprised that Lyle chose to stay closer to home, given his love for travel and new experiences, on top of the offers to dive at Stanford, University of Texas, Florida State, The University of Arizona and Indiana University, among others.

Upon reflection, she says, it all makes sense. “Lyle likes being the hometown kid. He embraces Cleveland and ‘the 216’ and what all of that means to him. When it comes down to it, I think he likes having the opportunity to go to Ohio State where they can say that they brought in the state champ and then he can grow with the program. To him, that was really important.”

More than anything, Cahalane says that whatever is ahead for Lyle, he’s well equipped to manage it. “His family has set him up to be the man that he is and the person that he’s becoming. He has a good, healthy sense of life and he knows what matters and what doesn’t matter,” he says. “Lyle walks out of competition like there’s still a tomorrow. For him, life always moves on.”

Originally published in Shaker Life, Spring 2019.