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Bay's Kaszubowski makes it look easy in winning state D2 diving crown

Becomes first diving champ since Hawley

Feb. 21, 2012

Whitefish Bay freshman state champion diver Joe Kaszubowski is a natural, that's all that has to be said.

Because after six years of too-long gymnastics practices ("three hours a night and then lots of weekend time," he said), he was looking for something different.

On a whim two years ago, he went to the Schroeder Aquatic Center for a diving lesson from the program's head diving coach Todd Hill.

And he was hooked.

"The first thing we noticed was that he fell in love with it right away," said Hill, who was in Madison for last Friday's WIAA State D2 championships. "It was hard to get him off the board once he got started."

"And simply put, we could tell right away he was very talented."

Kaszubowski went in as the favorite in the 16-man field, and he showed the nerves of someone much older and far more experienced as he cruised to the title with a 431.2 point total, more than 58 points ahead of the runner-up from Monona Grove.

His efforts led the Blue Dukes to a 12th-place finish in the D2 field

"Diving is a lot like gymnastics," Kaszubowski said. "Don't get me wrong, I loved gymnastics, but it just got to be so much time. So I took this lesson and I really, really liked it. I like the idea of being up there by yourself on the board with everyone watching."

Kaszubowski is the first Bay diving champ since all-time great Alex Hawley won the last of his three consecutive state D2 crowns in 1996.

"What a poised young man," said Blue Duke swim coach Jim Davis of Kaszubowski. "He gave us such a great start to the meet and to do what he did in front of that crowd was amazing. You just never know with things like that. It's not as big or as noisy later that night (when the swimming finals are held), but it's still a heck of a job to stay with it, because as everyone knows, the judging gets a lot harder at state."

"I imagine his nerves were going a little bit, but we had a great crowd of supporters there and I think that helped."

"It was a little nerve-wracking in warm-up," Kaszubowski said, "but then I hit my first dive (a front one-and-a-half pike) and then I could breathe a little. The knees weren't as tight anymore."

Hill said that Kaszubowski got a lot of those nerves out of the way when he went with the Schroeder team last spring to the YMCA Nationals in Florida.

"It was the biggest meet he had attended up to that point," said Hill, "and he knew he had to learn some tougher dives if he wanted to be competitive and he did extremely well there. He didn't let the moment swallow him up, just like he didn't last Friday. I'd say he hit 10 of his 11 dives really well (at state)."

Hill works closely with Kaszubowski and other area high school divers. His work is valued by Kaszubowski and Davis because Bay currently doesn't have a diving coach.

"I've known Todd a long time," said Davis, "and we have a great relationship. We really trust in what he does (with the kids). We have a lot of respect for him because there aren't many like him out there."

And Kaszubowski, who is also a left-handed pitcher and first baseman on the baseball team, may prove to be a rare commodity himself.

"I'd read up a little (on Bay's diving history) and I wanted to resurrect it a little," he said.

By the time he nailed his seventh dive, a one-and-a-half tuck that has a high degree of difficulty, he knew his chances at doing just that were pretty darn good.

"His final three dives are probably his highest scoring ones, so he was in really good position after that," said Hill.

The 5-8, 150-pounder stood tall on the podium afterwards, taking it all in.

"It was a really happy moment," he said. "I was really excited to be on the medal stand. Looking out at all those people was just fantastic."

And as Hill said, if Kaszubowski stays with it, moments like that could become a habit for him.

"He's a very coordinated kid," said Hill, "and he is nowhere near his full strength or athletic ability just yet. Already he has an exceptional ability to finish dives and make them look really good."

"Once he fills out, the sky's the limit."

Freshman diver wins state for Bay

Leads team to strong finish

TEAM SCORES (top five plus Bay): McFarland 325, Cedarburg 249.5, Monona Grove 237, Madison Edgewood 154.5 and Kiel 145, Bay 12th with 74.

BAY DIVING HISTORY: Kaszubowski is the 12th Bay diver to win a state crown. Others include Carroll Haines (1951 and 1952), Fred Wright (1955), Lee Martell (1960), Brad Smart (1961 and 1962), Paul Priebe (1964 and 1965) and Hawley (1994-96).

OTHER BLUE DUKE RESULTS: 200 medley relay-Noah Oldson, Henry Smith, James Colton and Henry Bourgeois, 13th (season best 1:44.45). 200 free-Bourgeois, 13th (1:51.61); Smith, 14th (personal best 1:51.68). 100 free-Colton, 16th (50.55). 500 free-Smith, 12th (4:59.58); Oldson, 13th (personal best 4:59.74). 100 backstroke-Colton, 14th (57.57); Oldson, 15th (personal best 57.62). 400 free relay-Ethan Nikolau, Smith, Bourgeois and Colton, seventh (season best 3:20.41).

QUOTE: "We didn't quite hit what we were hoping for," said Davis. "We had turned in such a great performance at the sectional (the week before). …It was just so fast this year. It was just a little disappointing that we didn't drop a little more time." The 400 free relay missed a state medal by .1 of a second.

STATE SENIORS: Colton and Bourgeis.

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