Reigning State Champion Prioritizes Academics in Choosing College

Senior Lilia Atanda executes a forward one and a half in the pike position at a national diving competition. Provided by Lilia Atanda

by Lizzy Hermosilla ’23

Senior Lilia Atanda has made waves in the world of both high school diving and national diving competitions. The two-time state champion who is looking to put another title under her belt for the 2022 season has committed to the University of Chicago to continue her diving and academic career.

As a freshman, Atanda became the first Sherwood girls diver to win the state championship, and then she won states again as a junior defending her title after the Covid-19 virtual year. In 2020, as a freshman, she also won a regional title and broke the previous Sherwood diving record of 384 with a score of 406 and then re-broke her own record the following season as a junior with a score of 426. Outside of high school diving, she has qualified for USA Nationals on 1 and 3 meter springboard twice, and won the 2021 title of AAU 3 meter springboard and platform champion.

An athlete of Atanda’s caliber has the potential and promise to commit to some of the best Division I athletic programs in the country, but she made the choice to commit to Division III athletics at the University of Chicago and plans to major in mathematics. “School has always been my number one priority,” said Atanda. The University of Chicago is ranked 6th in national universities by U.S. News and World Rankings and with an acceptance rate of only six percent, it is one of the most selective colleges in the nation.

The admissions process for a Division III athletic commitment is slightly different than a Division I athletic commitment. Atanda still had to apply and be accepted on her own merit but her chances of admission increased as a recruited athlete. Atanda fell in love with not only the University of Chicago’s picturesque campus that looks like it comes straight out of Harry Potter, but she also liked the team and coaches when she visited on her recruiting trip this April. “Everyone was incredibly welcoming,” said Atanda, “I [also] love the coach so much … and I believe I will improve so much with her.”

Atanda’s family is no stranger to the world of collegiate athletes. Her brother committed to Brown University to continue his soccer career, and is set to graduate in the spring of 2024. Both of her parents were also collegiate athletes. Her mom was a Division I swimmer at the University of Maine at Orono and her father was a member of a two time NCAA men’s soccer championship team at the University of Virginia.

Her parents were big motivators for her to pursue a collegiate diving career, but her brother achieving his dream of a collegiate soccer career was even more important to Atanda’s success. “My older brother’s decision to play Division I Soccer at Brown created an idol for me to look up to,” said Atanda, “I have always been on a similar path as my brother and … him playing soccer at Brown made me realize that I can achieve my goals [as well].”

Atanda is excited for her next four years at the University of Chicago and hopes to qualify for an NCAA Division III national championship. She is looking forward to her collegiate career, and feels prepared after she endured six years of stressful competition. Atanda shows great promise and her career at the University of Chicago will be nothing short of exceptional.