PHS diver Knuth left lasting impression

by Greg Ceilley of The Review staff

TAYLOR KNUTH, Plymouth senior, climaxed an outstanding high school diving career by winning a sixth-place medal in the Division 2 state meet last fall. — Review photo by Greg Ceilley TAYLOR KNUTH, Plymouth senior, climaxed an outstanding high school diving career by winning a sixth-place medal in the Division 2 state meet last fall. — Review photo by Greg Ceilley PLYMOUTH – Senior Taylor Knuth left her mark on the Plymouth girls swimming and diving program, not just as a standout diver but as a leader and a key contributor to the success of her teammates.

“I can’t count how many other girls came out for this diving team over the last four years because of what Taylor was doing in competition, and the fun they were having in the pool,” said longtime Panther diving coach Greg Heberlein.

“With her graduating, she has left the diving program in very good shape.”

“The Plymouth swim/dive program is very welcoming. It means a lot to me to be a leader,” said Knuth.

“It’s nice to see them [teammates] come up and ask you questions, not just about diving but about school. It makes me feel good that people trust me.”

Knuth wrapped up a stellar diving career at PHS this past fall – earning her third Division 2 state medal and winning her fourth straight Eastern Wisconsin Conference title. Knuth was also a sectional champion in 2013 when she scored a career-best 412.20 points for 11 dives.

Knuth is surprised she had such a successful diving career at PHS.

“It’s impressive to see where I’ve gone with diving. I’ve come a long way since my freshman year. I’m pleased with my career,” she said.

“I didn’t think I would take it [diving] this far and into college.”

Knuth will attend college at Mankato State (Mankato, Minn.) this fall where she will dive. She plans to study to become a veterinarian – majoring in biology with a pre-vet emphasis. Knuth is in the National Honor Society and has a cumulative 3.969 grade-point average.

“It’s a beautiful school. It’s a good school for science and biology,” said Knuth, daughter of Jeff and Lisa Knuth of Plymouth.

“Plymouth has had diving since the school started the girls swim team back in the late ’70s. There have been only two divers of this quality over that period of time – Amanda Maas and Taylor Knuth,” said Heberlein.

“We have had good divers, and many have gone to state but none had the passion and drive that these two ladies had.

“Taylor wants to dance and dive, and when she dives it’s like watching her dance in the air.

“She had her best season over-all this year [2013]. She said earlier that this year was the most fun for her. Her scores were her best,” Heberlein noted.

“Her statemeet finish was not what she wanted – aiming for the state champion gold medal. But she had a large group of freshmen girls that she was the team captain for.

“And she loved to teach them what she had learned over the last four years. They were her friends.”

Knuth was seeded No. 2 going into the 2013 state meet but finished sixth. She bounced back from a slow start with a strong finish.

“I was a little disappointed I didn’t finish first or second. Due to my incident which threw me off a little and put me in 11th, coming back to sixth was a big accomplishment. I was happy with the way I bounced back and was proud of myself,” she said.

In the preliminaries, Knuth caught a toe on the board while pushing off on one of her dives which caused a low score.

Knuth earned a third-place medal at state in her sophomore season and brought home a fourth-place medal as a junior. She was a state qualifier all four years at PHS.

“It’s definitely a huge accomplishment [winning three state medals]. Not a lot of people can say they’ve done that,” she said.

Knuth said the diving accomplishments she is the most proud of are being a four-time EWC champion, a four-time state qualifier and winning three state medals.

She thought her diving teammate, senior Haley Olsen, did great in this past state meet. Olsen finished 12th, improving two places over the 2012 state event.

“We support each other in practices and meets,” Knuth said.

Knuth appreciated all the support she received during her high school diving from her family, relatives, coaches and teammates.

“This was probably my best season [in 2013] behind my sophomore year a little bit and it was a fun season. My scores increased and were consistent this past season,” she recalled.

Knuth pointed out the main keys to her diving success.

“Being in gymnastics at the Sheboygan YMCA helped me a lot. It helped with my perspective on where I am in the air,” she said.

“Not being afraid of trying new things… go for it! It will sting sometimes – hitting the board and the water – but it won’t last very long.”

She said her gymnastics coaches, and Heberlein and Tim Kuckuk [volunteer diving coach and former PHS diver] and diving camps in the summers have helped her a lot. She attended three diving camps this past summer.

“I enjoy diving a lot. It’s a good time to get away. It’s a different sport. Not too many people do it and there’s great freedom because you have more of a choice [on what you want to perform],” Knuth said.

“It feels great when you execute a dive after putting a lot of time into it and you score well on it. I enjoy doing the back one with a 1½ twist the most.

“Diving is definitely a mental challenge – trusting that you’re not going to hit the board, and that you’re going to make the twist or back flip. You have to know what you’re doing.

“It’s a different atmosphere at a meet. You have to be focused. I just tune everything out.

“I welcome the challenge [of diving] like keeping the legs straight and with a minimum splash. There’s a lot of repetition so you know what to do and when,” explained Knuth.

“I loved what I saw from her right off the start. She had strong legs. She could do flips and twists,” Heberlein recalled.

“I just had to teach her the starting approaches, and how to jump into the air before doing somersaults, instead of just flipping off the diving board.

“Her water entries were straight and splash-less. Every dive she did was art in motion, whether in practice or competition. I just stood and watched. I am going to miss her,” said Heberlein.

“You look up to them [Heberlein and Panther head coach Mike Slagle] because they have been there so long [at PHS],” Knuth said. “At state they said I had a good career and that meant a lot to me.”

Knuth is proud of what the 2013 PHS swim/dive team accomplished, capped off with the program’s 15th straight EWC title.

“We had a good season. A lot of the girls stepped up. I’m definitely proud of the team,” she said.

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