By Greg Bates
Times-Press sports correspondent
The first meet in which Erin Schuh ever dove in was quite memorable.
But not for a good reason.
The then-junior on the Seymour girls swimming and diving team walked down the 1-meter springboard, jumped off, tried for a reverse and “Supermanned it.” That’s slang for when a diver lands on their back.
Schuh got a good laugh about it. All the girls competing in the meet also thought it was hilarious.
“But look at her now,” Seymour diving coach Danni Plamann said. “She can go places.”
Schuh has come a long way since that embarrassing dive last season. After advancing to the Division 2 state meet last season and placing seventh, the senior has become one of the best divers in the state this season.
“I have a lot more confidence in my dives than I did last year,” said Schuh, who was never in swimming growing up. “Last year, I was really nervous before I approached everything and this year I have a lot more confidence with my dives because I know I can do them and I can do them well. I’ve practiced them for a long time over the summer.”
One big reason for Schuh’s instant success in diving is due to her background. She competed in gymnastics for nine years and uses many of the same techniques from that sport as she does in diving.
“Gymnastics taught me air awareness for sure,” said Schuh, who also went to the state track and field meet last season, placing third in the pole vault. “Everything I have to do requires me to know where I am in the air, so that has helped a lot. Also, having flexibility and strength and being able to do flips in general has really helped me.”
Even though gymnastics has some similarities to diving, they are certainly different sports. What was the hardest part in transitioning to diving?
“Probably thinking about going up rather than going out,” Schuh said. “In gymnastics when you vault you have to reach for the table, but in diving you have to go up. And, also, going in on your head – headfirst entries were really different because in gymnastics you obviously can’t land on your head.”
Schuh uses all of her tumbling, flexibility and strength to her advantage while diving.
“That means you just have to translate it and change it up a little bit to recognize that entering the water,” Seymour girls swimming and diving coach Sarah Tracy said. “The first couple of months last year was a little difficult but she made some great improvements, which many of the former divers they are former gymnasts, so they have that background. She’s just really caught the bug and really loves the sport.”
It’s easy to love a sport when you excel at it.
Schuh, who feels like she still has so much to learn in the sport, has the third best score right now in Division 2. She has been diving well all season. Since the Bay Conference doesn’t really have any other divers, Schuh generally dives solo in home dual swim meets.
She doesn’t get much out of diving against herself. It’s when she competes in 11-dive meets – which are diving meets where girls perform 11 dives – where she’s facing challenges. The majority of the girls at the 11-dive meets she travels to are Division 1 athletes.
“For her, it’s a way to compete against really good divers and a way to see what she’s up against when she gets to state,” Plamann said.
One third-place and two fourth-place finishes in big 11-dive meets have really catapulted Schuh into the state spotlight this year. She notched her third at Ashwaubenon on Sept. 14 with a score of 355.65. Two weeks later, she broke the score record for an 11-dive meet with a 376.55 at Fond du Lac to take fourth. Over the weekend, she finished fourth (376.5) at Oshkosh.
Schuh also holds the school record for six dives in a dual with 232.0.
“When she first started out, I think she was doing like a 100 something,” Plamann said.
She scored a 358.1 last year at state, so her totals this season are extremely elevated.
After a seventh-place finish at state last year, Schuh knows there’s room for improvement.
“Being that I was only one spot off the podium, it really motivates me,” Schuh said. “I really want to get on the podium and I know that this year I have higher degree of difficulty and I have more confidence and everything. I went (to state) last year, so I have a year under my belt. I just feel better about it.”
Coach Tracy calls Schuh’s state experience an eye-opener. It also elevated her diving stature around the state.
“She’s part of a club now and a coaching staff that is now recognized around the state, so that helps,” Tracy said. “Unfortunately, diving is very subjective, so that didn’t help her at state last year because no one knew her. But now this year people actually know her and that should help her as well.”
This past summer, Plamann suggested Schuh go train with the Fox Valley Dive Team staff to improve on twisting dives. For three to four days per week and upwards of two hours per session, Schuh received advanced instruction. That really helped her come back strong this season.
“(The coach) has a lot of experience and really knows what he’s talking about,” Schuh said. “He really motivated me and encouraged me because he knew that I could be a good diver if I put effort into it.”
With more skills and techniques to incorporate, Schuh increased the degree of difficulty of her dives by nearly one full point from last season. Last year, she was consistently attempting 1.7 and 1.8 degree of difficulty dives with a few over 2.0. This year, all but one or two of her dives are over 2.0.
“Last year, I did dives and somersaults for the most part and I just do 1 ½s,” Schuh said. “But my entire list this year is a 1 ½. I put in five new dives this year that I didn’t have last year.”
With the sectional meet just a couple weeks away on Nov. 2 at Ashwaubenon, Schuh wants to be consistent with all her dives.
“I need to clean up my dives,” Schuh said. “But I just need to stay consistent, keep getting height on all my dives, get clean entries, pointed toes and everything like that.”
Plamann said Schuh should easily make state, which is in Madison on Nov. 9, since she’s already beaten a number of the Division 2 field by 20-30 points.
“I don’t see any reason why she shouldn’t be seeded top 10 at state,” Plamann said. “The girls that beat her at state last year, Erin crushed them at the Ashwaubenon meet by 40 points.”
If Schuh makes it to state, it will be the final dives of her high school career. She wants to go out with a bang.
“I’m capable of getting on the podium at state for sure,” Schuh said. “Just try to beat my PR, that would be my goal at state.”
Schuh’s coach has higher aspirations at state.
“I want her to win state so bad, and I know she can do it,” Plamann said. “She’s come a long way from not touching a board.”
Next week we will have a feature story on Lauren Klawiter who is on the swimming team.