Sophomore Rachel Appert is the first Otters diver to qualify for state since 1998.

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Appert first diver at state in 12 years

Published 12:55pm Thursday, November 18, 2010 Updated 7:57am Friday, November 19, 2010

The Otters haven’t had a diver to represent them at the state meet since 1998, but this year, that will change.

During the Section 8AA championship swim meet, Rachel Appert qualified with 299.45, good for a fourth-place finish and the final slot on the team of state qualifiers. Preliminaries take place Thursday with finals on Saturday.

“It was almost overwhelming,” Appert said of how she felt when she made state. “I was really happy because my team came up and they were hugging me and congratulating me, and my mom came down and hugged me and we were all crying.”

She also remembered to hug and thank her coach, Mike Hartwell, who has been coaching boys diving for nine years and is in his first year coaching girls diving.

The 15-year-old high school sophomore started swimming in seventh grade because she wanted to be like her sister, who had been involved in swimming for several years.

At a swim practice one day during her first season, the athletes were learning introduction to diving. Afterward, Appert talked to the coach and went to her first diving practice. Her interest piqued, she decided to go for it and has been diving since.

“Diving was a challenge,” she said. “It was something new that no one in my family had done, and I kind of wanted to be different. None of my friends were in it, so I wanted to try something new and different that not many people do.”

It hasn’t been easy making it to state. Alongside school and homework, Appert spends about 18 to 20 hours in the pool each week between diving board time and swim practice, coach Hartwell said. But persistence has paid off.

“My whole philosophy is what gets repeated gets rewarded, and with diving, if you repeat your practices and your routine, you’re going to be rewarded in the outcome, and that’s certainly what we’re seeing here,” Hartwell said.

Appert said she likes learning new dives and the feeling of finally perfecting a dive, but added it can be challenging to balance school and swimming. “Sometimes it’s hard to feel like I’m performing to the best of my abilities and giving all I have to both of my sports,” she said.

When she’s not in school or in the pool, Appert spends time with her friends, reads and participates in church activities.

There are just three divers on the girls swim team, and Appert is the only in high school who competed for state. As the lone diver, Hartwell said not having a competitor can be difficult.

“She doesn’t have anyone here challenging her,” he said. “If you think of the psychology of an athlete, you’re only your best when somebody is pushing you or chasing you or you’re chasing them.”

Nevertheless, coach and athlete alike are proud to qualify for the state meet on Saturday. Appert said she doesn’t know how she’ll do at state, but is looking for the experience of being there and seeing what she can accomplish at a high level of competition.

“I want to work my DD (Degree of Difficulty) up there so I’m a tough competitor,” she said. “I want to see where it takes me.”

And after the state meet is over?

“I’m looking forward to eating candy, because I haven’t had any since the beginning of the season.”

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