Archived Story

Uncommon character

Published 11:14am Friday, February 22, 2013

An echo fills every high school pool that, along with the quiet splash of a clean dive and the reverberation of a diving board, is unique to the sports of swimming and diving. The warm air that fills each breath of chlorine tells you where you are, what you’re watching, and is the same from Minneapolis to Grand Forks. But at the Kennedy Secondary School pool, the goal to do things differently in a sport of so many constants has become the guiding purpose of the athletes and coaches who call it home.

This is, perhaps, best exemplified in this year’s trio of Otter divers who have garnered more success than any other Fergus diving squad in recent years.

“The whole message is to leave a legacy,” said head coach Mike Hartwell. “I think they are really doing that.”

The trio consists of senior Mike Aasness, Reid Magnusson and Mikey Pistulka, who are both juniors. Aasness has placed first for the Otters in every competition this year, with Magnusson and Pistulka filling the two and three sports on several occasions, including the preliminaries of the Central Lakes Conference meet. It was the first time any Otter diving team had gone 1-2-3 in that event.

Under the guidance of Coach Hartwell, the three build their dives from a training regimen focused on core strength and body toning, along with a whole lot of repetition off the boards to train muscle memory.

“The road to success in this sport is repetition, repetition, repetition,” said coach Hartwell. “It’s 80 dives for each diver every practice.”

It’s not uncommon for each one of them to leave practice weak in the knees, literally.

But following in step with what swimming coach Tom Uvaas has built the entire swimming and diving program around, the all-around development of the student athlete as an individual, Hartwell sees the payoff in and out of the pool.

“We train hard, but I like to tell jokes and stories of the old days, just to let them know they can take this with them for the rest of their lives,” said Hartwell.

There is no talk of a “number one” on the team, but if there is a leader it’s senior Michael Aasness, who set an Otter team record earlier this year with a dive of 288.30 and has made the first place finish almost a nightly routine.

Six years of training and a dedication to weightlifting has helped separate Aasness from the rest of the divers in the CLC, section and state.

“What sets me apart from other divers in the state is from lifting weights,” said Aasness. “It helps you get power off the board and get height, which the judges like to see.”

For now, Aasness has his eye on the top spot in the upcoming section meet, along with a top three finish at the state tournament. Both Hartwell and Aasness feel the goal is within reach.

Juniors Reid and Pistulka have taken a spot on the final podium for most of the year and promise to continue the team’s success next season. But both know that focusing on section and state performances will give them the experience needed to carry on the high level of performance for another year.

“It’s all small things,” said Reid. “It could be a lean or a single toe point. It’s all details.”

Since the team has been together for several years, a kinship has grown that pushes each diver to challenge the other. All three, however, never push past the friendship they’ve formed through the sport.

“When I get better, they get better,” said Pistulka. “But really, it’s fun competitiveness.”

The team will look to hang more banners in the Kennedy Secondary School pool after all three divers hopefully qualifying for the state tournament at the Section 5A swimming and diving meet this Friday and Saturday in Bemidji.

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