Whitnall's Stave soars to diving crown with record effort
Senior shatters state mark before heading to UW-Madison
Greenfield - Rachel Stave's 11th dive at Friday's WIAA Division 2 state meet brought plenty of emotion to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Natatorium.
"I watched her last dive," Whitnall swimming head coach George Guddie said. "She nailed it, and I just said, 'Wow!' Another coach was standing next to me and also said, 'Wow!' "
Stave's diving coach, Cheryl Weber, said, "It was an inward 1½ somersault, one of her best dives, and she scored eights on it. They flashed her overall score of 497.3 points, and we just hugged each other."
Stave, a Whitnall senior, said of the moment, "I was very happy. I feel blessed. I was kind of speechless at that point."
With that final dive, Stave not only put an impressive exclamation point on her third straight state diving championship - which she won by 91 points - but also locked up the Division 2 state record.
Her 497 points put her 17 ahead of the 480 set by Brown Deer's Gina Ketelhohn in 1995, which had been the oldest standing state meet record.
Stave's total was also just five points behind the Division 1 mark of 502.45 posted by Lauren LeRoy of Oshkosh North in 2003.
"That was amazing," Stave said with a smile. "It was a good way to end the season."
Maintaining focus at state
Stave had come to Madison with a 451.65 qualifying total, which stood 61 points ahead of second-place Gina Jacobson of Edgewood Sacred Heart, so the state title itself seemed almost a formality.
"We knew her opportunity of winning the title was probably well-secured," Weber said, "and we chatted just a bit (before the state meet) about the record. She broke three pool records this season, at Brookfield East, Whitefish Bay and Greenfield in the sectional. (The state record) was always a goal, but you can't focus too much on that."
Stave felt the same way.
"I didn't want to think about it too much," she said. "I wanted to take it one dive at a time and see how it went."
Things went well until the fourth dive, a 1½ somersault on which she scored only in the five-point range.
"I had been doing that one well recently," Stave said, "but it didn't go too well at state."
Just like a pro golfer who is on the way to a course record but stumbles to a double bogey, Stave suddenly faced a much tougher road to the state mark.
"I knew there was nothing I could do about it," Stave said. "I just wanted to move on, stay focused and do my best."
Later, in a break between dives, Weber spoke with Stave, saying, "Well, if you want to get things going, this is the time."
Like the great competitor she is, Stave indeed got herself going again.
"Her next three dives were great, including her best-ever effort on one of them," Weber said. "She more than made up for that fourth dive."
After the 10th dive, Weber glanced at the diving scoreboard.
"I did some calculating," she said. "I saw she needed 44 more points for the state record. She had one of her best dives coming up, so I knew it could happen."
Stave, who was warming up for her final effort at the time, chose not to play the numbers game.
"I was trying not to think about it," she admitted. "I didn't calculate anything; I just wanted to do my best."
The 11th dive of the meet - and the final one of her brilliant high school career - went just as she wanted, and the state record was hers.
"I knew she had a good shot at the record," Guddie said, "but it was a surprise to me that she got it by that much."
Finishing a distant second with 406.15 points, 91 points behind Stave, was Jacobson of Edgewood, the second seed at state. Jacobson, as a sophomore, should be in the battle for next year's crown.
After the meet, both coaches reflected on Stave's season and career at Whitnall.
"She is a great competitor, but even more, just an awesome kid," Guddie said. "She works hard at everything and also gets great grades."
Weber, who worked with Stave through high school, said she benefits from her early gymnastics background.
"She enjoyed doing that," Weber said. "That gave her flexibility and strength, plus good body control in the air. She is also extremely dedicated. I asked her if she could take off any time before the club season, and she said no, she would be at practice this week."
Joining her brother
After graduating from Whitnall in the spring, Stave will attend and dive for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the current address of older brother Joel, who was the starting quarterback for the Badgers until an injury several weeks ago.
Rachel also considered Iowa and Minnesota but ultimately chose Wisconsin for a number of reasons.
"I like the diving team, I like the school and my family was also a factor," she said. "I wanted to stay fairly close to them. I felt Madison was the better school academically; it was a hard choice."
She has watched Joel play several times this season.
"I saw him on my recruiting trip, and I saw the game where he got hurt," she said. "That was not the best time for him, but he's got more time there, three more years."
Rachel also has a promising future at Madison, but she - and the state swimming community - will long remember her four years at Whitnall, highlighted by her three state championships and capped by her convincing state record.
Stave had company
Rachel Stave's Whitnall teammate, Sarah Arteaga, also took part in two events at Friday's WIAA Division 2 state meet.
200 IM: Arteaga finished 14th in 2 minutes, 17.85 seconds
100 BREASTSTROKE: She came in 16th with 1:11.03
COACH GEORGE GUDDIE: "She had tapered for sectional and had her best times of the season there. It was difficult for her to re-taper for state, but she still had her second-best times in both events. She did a great job. I called them (Stave and Arteaga) my dynamic duo."
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