Daniel Muller has achieved something that may be more rare than three straight state titles.
He has become a household name on campus.
As a diver. At the West Valley’s premier football school, Centennial.
“Having our admin here support me in that way is crazy. I’ve never gotten that before, so it’s really nice,” Muller said. “It’s sort of eye opening, to be a three-time state champion and seeing people understand and appreciate that is crazy.”
His sophomore year was his most difficult, as he beat out Evan Honer of Liberty by just more than 60 points. In 2018, Muller finished more than 110 points ahead of his closest competition.
He saved his best for his last high school meet, Nov. 8 at the Kino Aquatic Center in Mesa. Muller routed the field by 130 points this year.
While he said he felt more pressure to three-peat starting this season, Muller was relaxed by the time the state meet began.
“Seeing everyone I was going to compete with made it easier because they’re friends. That kind of alleviated the pressure a bit,” Muller said.
To some extent, the last three dives were pressure packed. But for the third straight year, Muller posted the highest score of any diver in the state.
“I never really thought that I needed to pick it up. I just tried to stay calm and breeze through the dives,” Muller said.
He still has another winter diving for the Phoenix Dive Club, where his teammate include Phoenix Brophy Prep sophomore Gage DuBois, the Division I runner up.
Before that, Muller said he is looking forward to the Chris Vonk Invitational, a national-level meet Dec. 7-8 in Mission Viejo, Calif.
Now having the chance to look back a little bit too, he said many of his happiest memories are of his high school career.
Centennial divers train with Ironwood and Kellis divers at Ironwood High School under the tutelage of diving coach Mandi Lanning. Through those workouts, Muller said he’s become good friends with Ironwood junior Justin Sweetland and several Kellis divers.
“My memories would have to be specifically tailored through practice because everything eventful and fun that happens is definitely within practice with my teammates and Ms. Lanning. It’s just fun. It’s different than club because you get to share more laughs,” Muller said.
Club diving can often seem like a second job, he said. Lanning is able to balance a more personal approach with the continuation of his club work on fine tuning his board work and back press.
“She is not the kind of coach that is hard core or in your face about developing your craft. She’s had such a positive impact on me. Having that support and coaching style from her is really refreshing. I think it allows me to progress,” Muller said.
Coaching also played a major role in his college decision. Muller signed to dive for the University of Wisconsin in Madison during a ceremony four days after the claimed his third state crown.
He began looking at the Big Ten school almost exactly a year ago. One reason, he said, is that the school has an “amazing” program for kinesiology, which will be his major.
After visiting he came to love the campus and felt at home there. And a midstream coaching change only enhanced the university, in this case.
“They have a different coach at the university and that was definitely a game changer for me. The new (diving) coach Landon Marzullo is a great person. I’ve known him since I started diving. I feel like I would get the most from him in that aspect of my college career,” Muller said.