by DANIEL PICHA
Winona has had a long history of excellent diving talent going way back to the late 60s when divers like Tom Stover, a diving coach at University of Wisconsin - Green Bay, and Mark Nichols, the late 1968 Big Nine Conference Champ, rocked the boards. Since then Winona High has had many, many high scoring divers such as Dan Laak, a Winhawk Hall of Fame inductee; Mark Glubka; Kelly Huff; Edie Clingman, conference champion; Joe Welch, two-time conference champion and two-time regional champion; Justin Bublitz; Crystal Franzwa; and Derrick Prenot, just to name a few. And a very special diver we can talk about later on.
What’s interesting about most of the above divers is their place in the Minnesota state diving championships. You see, during their time on the boards, Minnesota had only one class — period. Nowadays Minnesota has a two-class system, which is class A and Class AA. Now, you should be thinking, where is the author going with this?
Take for example former girls varsity record holder Kelly Huff. She placed ninth in the one-class Minnesota state meet. In a two-class state meet she would’ve been in at least fourth or fifth place, which is really good, right? Joe Welch placed 10th and eighth respectively his junior and senior year, which would’ve put him in fifth and fourth place, respectively, at a two-class state meet.
Now let’s talk about the 11 dive point totals. Whenever a diver wins the conference or region meet with 400 or more points, they would be considered a favorite to be in contention for a state championship. Scoring over 400 points is a good standard. Joe Welch, for example, scored 425 points when winning his region both years.
Now, for the one that got away. Winona Senior High School (WSHS) and Cotter has had some really great state meets recently with the WSHS softball team taking second and Cotter tennis player Ian Modjeski making it to state, plus the track team members who did really well and scored very high at state. They deserve all the accolades afforded them. But can we talk about a wonderful young lady named Issara Schmidt? In the two-class system at the Minnesota state meet in 2019, Issara placed second which is a phenomenal feat! This is after winning the Region 1 meet, thus qualifying for state.
However, after winning the region meet again in 2020, and scoring a whopping 530 points, shattering the region 1 diving record, there was no Minnesota state diving meet due to the COVID 19 pandemic. That is beyond sad for an athlete that has worked so hard during her high school career. It’s similarly tough for her coach, Jeremiah Jackson, who has put in so much time with this marvelous diver.
According to the Minnesota state diving coaches association, who took the scores and videos of all the region champions, there is no doubt that Issara Schmidt would’ve been the 2020 Minnesota State Diving Champion. The very first state champion diver Winona would’ve ever known. I say “congratulations, Issara” on a very successful high school diving career!
Now, it’s on to college for this wonderful young lady. Issara has enrolled and is accepted at New York University (NYU) where she will study biology and continue her career on the NYU diving team. As the diving coach at Winona Senior High for 21 years, I know diving. And this is one of the first divers that I consider “Big 10” diving talent. Issara has been recruited by a number of big name colleges, such as Kansas University and the University of Virginia, and most Big 10 schools know about Issara. Issara has chosen the path of NYU, which will help her with her career after sports. A wise decision from a very wise and special athlete. All I can say is, “Way to go, champ.”