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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Sports

Same athlete, different pool: Freshman diver adapts to college


Freshman Katie Deininger has already won the AAC’s Diver of the Week award in the young season. | Courtesy of UH Athletics

The transition from high school to college is a challenge for every student but especially for college athletes. As the competition level and work load increase, athletes can lose focus on their season, but freshman diver Katie Deininger has the skills to make the shift easier.

Deininger, an Arizona native, is used to success in her craft. Throughout her high school career, she collected 21 first-place finishes and finished third in a national event.

“I think the conditioning is a lot more intense,” Deininger said. “The overall training is a lot more, but it’s similar. I’ve been doing it for a while now.”

She has a chance to add a huge piece to this UH team. Last season, the Cougars sent only two divers, Micaela Bouter and Lauren Burrell, to the NCAA championships. Bouter’s graduation opened a hole in the team that Deininger has the opportunity to fill.

There are two other freshman divers as well, Jaylynn Whit and Makayla Wallar, but they combined for only two first place finishes throughout high school.

Deininger is joining a team that is having its best stretch in many years. The swimming and diving team has had a streak of two successful seasons that ended with conference championship wins. After winning the championship in the 2017-18 season, the team is looking to capitalize on its momentum.

Many current swimmers have program records for the team, and Dieninger fits in well with plenty of accolades of her own.

In high school, Deininger was an accomplished diver for Cactus Shadow High School in Cave Creek, Arizona. She competed nationally, qualified for two state championships and received state awards for her performance. Her best season might have been in 2015, when she won the state championship and received the award for Arizona Aquatics Sports Foundation Girl’s Diver of the Year.

Following advice from her high school coach, she committed to UH’s swim team before her senior year was over.

“My coach knew Bob (Gunter) pretty well,” Deininger said. “He told me he was a really great coach. And the academics and the team, it just seemed like a really great option.”

Moving to Houston from Phoenix added another wrinkle to the transition. Besides the weather differences, the size of the city and people are very different.

“It’s a lot different than Phoenix,” Deininger said. “People say ‘y’all,’ which is weird. But there’s a lot more city here than where I’m from.”

Deininger has quickly made her mark on the team. She has already won the American Athletic Conference’s Diver of the Week award. She earned the award at the Houston Diving Invitational, where she collected three first-place finishes.

Though she has high expectations for herself after performing so well in high school, she is keeping her goals attainable and making small steps toward them.

“I just want to see myself progress this year,” Deininger said. “Become a better athlete and do well in school.”

Deininger took a good first step toward becoming an elite athlete in the early part of this season. There are plenty of meets on the horizon, but the team already has its sights set on the ultimate goal. After winning the conference championship twice in a row, the team is ready to compete to complete the three-peat.

“I think we just really want that conference championship again,” Deininger said. “I think we’re all just really working our butts off for that.”

If Deininger is able to compete at the level she has already established, then the team will be slightly closer to achieving its goal.

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