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Girls Swimming and Diving: Brainerd’s spectacular 6 dominate the diving well

The Brainerd Warriors swimming and diving team enjoy the luxury of having six senior divers.

Diving coach and divers listen to a judge.
Brainerd Warriors diving coach Mary Streiff and her divers listen to the diving judge before competition begins Sept. 15, 2022, at Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — Meghan Wirtz has only lost to one opposing diver during a Brainerd Warriors swimming and diving dual meet all season.

That came against the St. Cloud Tech Tigers Sept. 15 when Wirtz posted a 188.0 to Tech’s No. 1 varsity diver’s 191.45. It’s the only time Wirtz has not beaten every opposing diver during a dual meet.

Why is that newsworthy?

Wirtz dives for Brainerd’s junior varsity.

Only three girls can dive varsity during a dual meet and for Brainerd that is Izzy Olson, Brenna Deason and Evi Helsene. Wirtz, who placed ninth in last year’s Section 8-2A meet, is the odd diver out for varsity.

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And she accepts that, but she’s no stranger to success as she advanced to last year’s Class 2A gymnastics state meet.

A photo illustration of the six senior divers for the Brainerd Warriors
The Brainerd Warriors' six senior divers leap into the diving well Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, at the Brainerd High School Aquatic Center.
Photos by Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch. Illustration by Becca Larson / Forum News Service

“I feel like last year it was more of a competitiveness for me to get on that varsity spot,” Wirtz said. “I feel like this year there isn’t that much. I’m pretty content being on that top JV spot. It’s fine. I feel like there is a little bit of competitiveness between us, but it’s good competitiveness. We’re just pushing each other to work harder.

“I just love the atmosphere that we have in here and I just enjoy being with my friends every single day. I never could see myself doing anything else.”

For large invitationals, four divers compete for varsity and Wirtz is called up for that fourth spot. Her goals heading into the season were to break 200 points for a six-dive meet, which she’s already done, and improve on her section results from last year. How much improvement?

Four divers from each section advance to state. Wirtz was asked if four Warriors could advance to state.

“Last year at sections, four of us got into the top 10,” Wirtz said. “That’s a big deal. There were teams that didn’t even get one person in. We immediately started thinking what can we do this year to do the same and even better.

“There’s pretty tough competition and I’m not sure if going to state is something I could get. Obviously, I would love for that to happen, but I don’t know.”

Wirtz’s teammate Deason is a bit more optimistic.

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“That is definitely a possibility,” she said. “Looking at the stats, I think there’s a good chance of at least three divers going to state because there’s a girl from Sartell that’s pretty good, but it’s definitely a chance. You never know in diving. Something might go wrong for another girl and that would open up another spot.”

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Wirtz isn’t the only person affected by Brainerd’s diving depth. Malina Schiller and Ella Dircks made the top 20 finals cutoff for the West Fargo Border Battle Sept. 17. According to the invite rules, however, only four divers from each of the 14 teams competing in the event could advance. Despite qualifying for the finals Schiller and Dircks couldn’t compete in the finals. Olson won the event, Helsene placed fourth, Deason sixth and Wirtz eighth.

“I knew we were going to be good, but maybe not this good,” Olson said. “It’s awesome to have four people over 190 every meet. Meghan could be the No. 1 varsity diver for pretty much every other school in the state.

“I felt bad for Ella and Malina, especially Ella because she was having a great meet.”

Like Wirtz, Dircks is fine with her place on the roster. She admitted thinking she should do something else, but there wasn’t anything she would rather be doing than practicing and competing with her friends.

“It has gone through my head before, but I definitely like diving and I feel like it’s more something to do for fun and keep me busy,” Dircks said. “I’m not too competitive about it. I just like to have fun with it. I feel like it’s more of a friend thing.”

Schiller enjoys watching the opposing divers during duals. She says it gives her confidence because she knows she could be on varsity for a lot of other teams.

“That happens a lot,” Schiller said. “I think in my head if I was on that team I would be on varsity. But just since we have such a good team here I’m on JV and I’m OK with that. I just like this sport so much, even if I’m good I’ll still try to improve. I just like the atmosphere and being at practice. I just like being on the team.”

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The six seniors met during youth gymnastics. Deason, Helsene, Wirtz and Dircks all kept with gymnastics. Schiller moved to basketball, while Olson focuses on golf during the winter.

“As a group, we all kind of know that we have a lot of depth on our team,” Deason said. “We’re not cocky. We’re just super humble with everything. We just have a really good team and we’re definitely all hard working and that’s why we have a good team.”

In Brainerd’s first six dual meets this season, the Warriors finished first, second and third in varsity diving. In four of those, all three divers surpassed 200 points.

“I feel like just having three spots pushes all of us to work harder,” Helsene said. “I feel like we’re all so close, too, which pushes us to do our best every day. All of us being in the same grade definitely helps. At practice, we really bond. We pretty much talk about everything. We give each other pointers and I feel like we’re not afraid to be harsh with each other. We’re pretty honest with each other.”

At last year’s section meet, Olson won the section title with 397.35 points. Deason also advanced to state with her fourth-place score of 340.85. Helsene finished seventh with 309.75 and Wirtz was ninth with 298.65.

In the Border Battle, Olson scored 371.25. Helsene posted 334.7 followed by Deason in 329.85 and Wirtz in 306.85.

In the Central Lakes Conference meet last year, Olson placed first, Deason fourth, Helsene eighth and Wirtz 13th.

The credentials are mind-boggling. One common denominator in all of this is each athlete’s respect and admiration for their diving coach Mary Streiff. And the best way to explain or describe that is to let the divers do it themselves.

“Mary is probably one of the best coaches I’ve ever hard,” Helsene said. “She’s pretty amazing and looking at other diving coaches on the sides, Mary is always there giving us pointers no matter what.

“She pushes me a lot to become the diver I am now. Especially this year. I’ve grown a lot because of Mary.”

Dircks said: “I love Mary. I feel like she knows us super well. We’ve all been together. She’s been my diving coach ever since I joined. I just think she knows us super well, which helps.

“She is very knowledgeable. She just knows what she’s doing. She gives me the confidence to do new dives and makes me feel safe when I’m up on the board.”

Wirtz agreed: “I love Mary as a coach. I feel like she coaches each of us as to what we need individually. She’s able to tell what we need at that moment. She can read our moods and give us the help we need at that moment. She’s always, compared to other coaches, giving us little critiques. I really appreciate her.”

Schiller echoed those sentiments.

“I love Mary and it also helps a lot to have a smaller team,” Schiller said. “She has six of us to really get to know. In basketball and same with track, there are so many people on those teams where Mary is just focused on us six. I feel like we have a lot closer relationship with our coach so it’s a lot easier for our coach to see what we need. She understands us.”

Said Deason: “Mary is definitely one of the best coaches that I’ve ever had. She knows what she’s doing inside the pool and out. She gives us amazing drills. She’s been coaching for a long time so I trust her with all of my dives. Especially in diving, you have to put all of our trust in your coach and I put all of my trust in Mary.”

Finally, Olson compared her coach to her mother.

“Mary is amazing,” Olson said. “Mary is like my mom. She relates to you on a personal level. When she doesn’t, it’s all diving. She knows what she’s talking about and if she doesn’t she’ll ask me what I think I did wrong. The trust we all have in her is more than any other coach we’ve all had.”

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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