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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Witte leading divers to new heights

Three guys and three girls.

No, this article is not about the cast of “Friends.”

Though small in number, the University of Wisconsin diving team plays a major role in each swimming meet's result, and has worked hard to step up to such a challenge in preparation for the 2006 season.

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As the only senior among three sophomores and a pair of freshman, Amanda Witte stands as the unquestioned leader of the six-person squad, and has been working to put the finishing touches on a successful career at Wisconsin.

"My goals are to end on a positive note," Witte said. "I definitely had one of the best careers I could possibly have."

UW diving coach Josh Seykora said his senior captain has been vital to the success of the diving team over the past few years.

"This program and this organization could not happen without her," Seykora said. "She takes huge responsibility in being a captain and takes it seriously. She has carried this program on her shoulders the last three years."

Since her sophomore year, Witte has emerged as one of the elite divers in the Big Ten, consistently in competition for NCAA championship qualifications.

"She's our leader, she motivates everyone because she's so determined," sophomore Laura Davidson said. "She inspires everyone to do their best, because she's always working the hardest every time she's in here."

According to Seykora, Davidson has improved immensely from her freshman season, knowing full well she will be taking over leadership duties once Witte has moved on.

"She's really set herself up to take over when Amanda leaves, and she has made herself a contributor and a player at the Big Ten Meet this year," Seykora said. "She has an unbelievable attitude, an unbelievable work ethic. She's going to be a great, great contributor to the program."

On the men's side, freshman walk-on Kelly Todd has shown strong potential, saying the difficulties of the collegiate level have motivated him to work toward a higher level.

"The work ethic is much different from high school," Todd said. "It's something I have learned, because [many of] those who go on to college won everything in high school but tend to get their butt kicked at every college meet."

"He knows how good he wants to be, and he's willing to try or do anything," Seykora added. "Those are the athletes we look for, who are highly coachable, and [come with] high personal character and integrity. The guy's a workhorse, he might get frustrated, but nothing ever gets him down."

Annual Aloha: The diving team, which is rounded out by twin sophomores Josh and Justin Bonner and freshman Lauren Morrison, recently returned from their two-week training trip to Hawaii.

For the past 35 years, the swimming and diving teams have gone to the island state over Winter Break, enduring the toughest, most intense practice period of the entire season.

Seykora called his team the "hardest-working diving team" during the two weeks they spent in Hawaii.

"This year was great training, a lot of people came away learning new dives, came away with a better attitude, came away with a lot of drive," he said.

The facilities are set up outside, so when the weather becomes a factor through rain or wind, Seykora said, his divers gain a mental edge over future opponents.

"It definitely separates those who have the mental drive and character from those who might just be going through the motions," he said. "It exposes weaknesses, and it also exposes strengths, and we talk about that as a team.

"It really builds the diving squad, puts it together. It's great for getting ready for the championship season."

Weekly road trip: It's not exactly a trans-Pacific flight, but once the season begins, the divers conduct even more training outside of Madison on a consistent basis.

Once a week, the diving team — without the swimmers — take off in the afternoon for Milwaukee, practice for a few hours there, and return to the UW campus that night.

The reason? Wisconsin's practice facility, the Natatorium, does not have a 10-meter platform.

"[The Milwaukee trips] give us exposure to platform, which is key, because I believe that helps all elements of diving," Seykora said. "It ups our confidence, and more important, it's a scored event at Big Tens."

"The platform … has been really highly looked upon in the Big Ten and around the country," Witte added. "When your team has put together a quality meet effort, they get looked at as a program that's succeeding."

Seykora said the aforementioned experiences have helped his team to give itself the best position possible to build confidence going into the Big Ten Meet over the second week of February, as well as NCAA zonals and championships in mid-March.

"We're definitely on the way up, but being in the toughest conference, we still got some work to do. We just got to get the right people in at the right time."

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