Tuesday’s dive meet at Truro Homes Association marked the end of the regular season for all competitors on hand. It also marked the end of some diving careers, as two seniors were honored for their last home meets. More than anything, though, it was the end of an era.
After 21 years of coaching at Truro, Rob Carvajal, Jr., is leaving the pool to devote more time to his family and his business. The face of NVSL diving and the program he nourished into a perennial power are finally parting ways.
The gravity of the occasion culminated in a single moment for Matthew Hubbard, one of the two seniors being honored Tuesday. Standing stock-still on the board, all eyes on him while his own closed, he took a deep breath and absorbed the silence that seemed to freeze time. The coach he’s known since age 7 had just finished up a speech and told him he loved him over the microphone, and now he needed to execute his final dive in the well where it all began.
Hubbard crept forward, launched himself in the air, bounced upward and completed a forward somersault with three twists. The form wasn’t perfect, but the moment was.
“To me [Carvajal] was almost like a second father,” said Hubbard, who will attend Virginia Tech in the fall. “I would spend so much time with the team and him, we were all kind of like a family. Knowing that it was all coming to an end tonight on the board, it was surreal.”
Hubbard helped Truro defeat Sideburn Run 50-22 to move to 5-0 on the season, securing the team’s 10th consecutive undefeated run to the top of NVSL’s Division 1. It’s business as usual for Carvajal, who took over the Annandale-based team in 1993 and quickly took it from an average program in Division 5 to a dominant force in the league’s top division.
Truro’s dominance hasn’t come easily. Carvajal uses his contagious energy and spunk to keep his team motivated throughout the summer, encouraging his divers to push themselves beyond limitations during practices that often start early in the morning and continue deep into the afternoon after an interval. Truro was hardly the favorite to beat Mansion House earlier this month, but Carvajal’s divers dug deep to win the meet 40-32.
“We had our best pep talk and our best double line ever before the season,” Carvajal said. “On paper we should have come in second place this season because Mansion House is an amazing team. But there were a couple events that we weren’t counting on that turned the meet around.”
Now Carvajal is walking away from the pool deck to devote himself to his wife, Wendy, whom he married last June. He also wants to put more time into his RJ Tennis Boot Camp Drills & Live Ball program, a popular adult tennis clinic he runs at The Four Seasons Tennis Club.
Like the rest of Truro’s members, dive team rep Erin Monette had a hard time believing Carvajal was really leaving when he made the announcement earlier this year. After her initial shock gradually faded into acceptance, Monette and fellow rep Tamara Johnston faced the task of filling the giant crater soon to be left by Carvajal’s absence. Monette and company are still weighing their options, but she takes comfort in the potential return of the older divers who have recently served as assistant coaches.
“A lot of the kids who are here have grown up with his guidance. The older kids can continue that,” Monette said. “This is the fourth year that Matt [Hubbard], Callan [Monette] and Ben [Schiesl] have been assistant coaches. They already know the system, so I think if we can keep those guys involved, then it will transition well. That’s the hope.”
Those older kids won’t be around much longer, but Carvajal hopes the culture of devotion he has worked to ingrain will keep Truro on top for years to come.
“On paper the team should continue to be competitive over the next two years,” Carvajal said. “This year my eyes were open to some of the talent that we have with the 10-and-under kids. If they get the bug, then it’s all going to start all over again.”
Vivian Ross, who will dive for James Madison University next year, joined Hubbard as the other Truro senior being honored Tuesday. Like all the other divers on the team, the two veterans will leave Truro this summer with binders full of meet sheets, motivational quotes, photos and memories, an annual parting gift bestowed by their favorite coach. This year’s keepsakes might prove especially bittersweet, but everyone on the team seems confident that their coach’s legacy is here to stay.
“We had a talk before the meet, and he said, ‘If you guys continue the way we’re going, we’ll be unstoppable,’” Hubbard said. “It’s great to know that even though he’s leaving, Truro’s not done.”