(WFRV) – For the high school class of 2020, it was as if the spring sports season never existed. Athletes and coaches in the state of Wisconsin weren’t going to let the same thing happen in 2021 to any of the sports sanctioned by the WIAA. Last September an alternate season during March and April was proposed to several schools that opted out of their regular sports seasons in the fall, and the first of those will hold a state championship in girls diving next Tuesday.
“Honestly? I’m so excited that we even have a season. I know me and my team are so grateful for it,” said Neenah High School senior Bailey Schroeder. “I think the thing for me is making sure my team is having fun and I’m having fun. “It is my senior year, so I just wanna have a good time.” Junior Abbigail Priestley added, “We practiced hard for that short amount of time, and we put all of our effort in it to do well.” “I feel really sorry for all the kids we put two weeks in August and one in September and when they called our season, they were pretty let down. So when we heard that they would have a season for us coming up in March and April, we were excited for that,” said Neenah diving coach Tim Foulks. “They worked hard for it. It was a smaller, shorter season by a whole month. But I’m really proud of what they’ve done in four less weeks.”
Everyone involved knew that a shortened spring schedule would make for less time spent in the pool, but after going almost 18 months without competition, getting back on the diving board was their ultimate goal. “We had maybe half the meets we normally have,” said Foulks. “We usually put in about five or six, 11 -dive meets in a season. This year we only had two.”
Last June, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a statement that if swimming pools are properly maintained, the chlorine in the water should “inactivate” the coronavirus, which would prevent the virus from spreading. And even though competitors do not wear a mask while diving, they do the moment they exit the pool.
“I wouldn’t say it’s weird, but with the conditions going on right now and just the fact that our divers and everyone here has to put up with so many precautions just to be able to have this season is great,” said Schroeder.
Foulks has been coaching state champions in both girls and boys diving at Neenah since 1996, and he has the luxury of having a 4-time state champion as inspiration to the girls on his current team. “To be successful you have to have some successful people before you, and that’s what Av Osero did for us. She really gave us a good foundation. Bailey and Abbie and all the other girls looked up to her and they want to walk in her footsteps.
In 2019, Schroeder and Priestley joined Osero in the top 10 at state finishing 3rd and 10th respectively and each are hoping to improve upon those efforts in Waukesha. “It’s very mental. What you put on the diving board, is what you’re gonna get when you enter the water, said Priestley. “You just have to go for your dive and I’m gonna improve by watching and visualizing some videos of my best dives, and just do the best I can.” Schroeder added, “I think a key is making sure we’re all having fun and we’re not getting too much in our heads about it. Because some of us tend to be a little stressed out when it comes to competition anxiety, so just making sure the team is feeling good, I think we will all have great performances.”
Diving is one of the few sports that can be subjective with multiple judges scoring differently throughout each of the dives, and even though you don’t have to be consistently great to win, sometimes all it takes is one lapse to lose. “They’ve got to forget the bad stuff and look forward to the next dive, which sometimes is a hard thing to do. The first one that makes a mistake in this kind of a sport, loses. So you really can’t afford to make a big mistake,” said Foulks. “A good diver will learn from their mistakes, and I think they understand that. We know what kind of work we have to do looking ahead for the next week, and we’re looking forward to next Tuesday. Both girls are seasoned veterans and they’ve been down to Madison and we’ll do well.
The girls swimming and diving alternate season will feature one division for the Tournament Series and will be held Tuesday, April 6, at Waukesha South High School. The meet is scheduled to begin with 42 teams taking part, with the diving competition at 12:30 p.m. and the swimming events start at 5 p.m.