Making the jump

Witt overcomes hardships to start college diving career
Monday, February 7, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 1:35 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

Rachel Witt needed to learn how to dive again.

A broken foot and a case of mononucleosis sidelined her for most of her senior year of high school in Illinois.

So this year, instead of just trying to figure out how to live away from home and balance practice and schoolwork, she also needed to shake the rust off of her diving.

A freshman on the MU women’s swimming and diving team, Witt especially needed work on her 3-meter dives.

“After having not done dives on the 3-meter last year, I wasn’t trying to improve on them, but just feel comfortable doing them,” Witt said. “I was still comfortable with my 1-meter dives.”

But just as she began to make progress, tragedy struck.

Witt’s mother died from breast cancer.

It was a depressing time for Witt and she took the first few weeks off in December to be with her family and regroup.

But when the strong-willed diver returned to the team around Christmas break, she suffered an injury to her hand that would sideline her for another week.

So Witt and diving coach Jamie Sweeney had to start over.

From the beginning of January until about two weeks ago, the two worked together and fought through the rustiness.

Then, against Iowa State on Jan. 22, the hard work paid off.

Witt not only won the 1-meter diving at the meet, but scored a season high for the team.

With everything that has gone on in her life this past year, it is quite an accomplishment that she is competing in, let alone winning meets.

It has left a lasting impression on her coach.

“She is one of the strongest people I have ever known,” Sweeney said. “To have gone through the things she has gone through and still come in and have me harp on her all day about her diving is amazing. I don’t know if I could have ever made it through.”

Witt’s work, however, is not done. She is now training for the Big 12 Conference Championships which will be held Feb. 23-26 at Texas A&M.

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