Photo by Cynthya Porter
Crystal Franzwa’s diving skills have earned her a scholarship and several records and titles during her time at WSHS.
University of Wisconsin Green Bay (UWGB) Diving Coach Tom Stover first noticed Winona Senior High School (WSHS) diver Crystal Franzwa for her impressive statistics and airborne prowess, but the fact that Franzwa had mastered a dive no other high school divers in the state even attempted really caught his attention. To complete the reverse somersault two-and-a-half twist, Franzwa jumps forward off the board, starts doing a back-flip, then begins twisting to make two-and-a-half full rotations, and lands feet first, facing the board.
The dive helped propel Franzwa to an illustrious record at WSHS and now it has helped earn her a spot on the Division I UWGB Diving Team. Franzwa signed her letter of intent to dive with UWGB last week.
"That’s a very rare high school dive, much less for women," Stover told the Winona Post. "That’s a rare dive even at our level of competition. You need to be very powerful in your twisting and you need to be very strong."
Franzwa credits her gymnastics background for her strong twisting skills. But her coach, WSHS Diving Coach Jeremiah Jackson, points out that not every gymnast makes a good diver. "There are many challenges to coming into diving from gymnastics. The biggest part is landing on your head. Gymnasts are not taught to do that."
He continued that many gymnasts have dived with WSHS, "but none of them came in with the power and talent that Crystal did. We are very excited to see what she is going to be able to do [at UWGB]."
So is Stover. "She has grace and smoothness in the air," he said. Her ability to nail the reverse somersault two-and-a-half twist on the one-meter springboard "suggest to a college coach that there is a kid who can turn that around on the three-meter board." Franzwa has a huge potential for growth he said.
Franzwa has some reservations about jumping from the height of college-level three-meter boards. "I'm not too thrilled about it, but Tom helped ease how I feel about it."
Before Franzwa had been courted by UWGB, Jackson said he "coerced" Franzwa into diving from a three-meter board once with a case of Mountain Dew. "She nailed the entry on the first try and I thought, 'You're not planning on diving in college? Huh.'"
Franzwa — who is an all-conference athlete in diving, gymnastics, and softball — was planning on playing softball in college when Stover approached her. It came as a surprise to Franzwa, but ultimately he was able to convince her that she had truly remarkable potential as a diver.
WSHS Athletic Director Brad Berzinski praised Franzwa for being a balanced, three-sport athlete, something that is increasingly a rarity these days, he said. Stover said that was a plus for him as well. "She is accomplished in all of her sports, and that is a big feather in her hat," he explained.
Franzwa said she knew she would come to UWGB as soon as she set foot on the campus. "It was just a done deal." She attended a swimming and diving meet during her visit, and all of the divers and their parents came up to her to introduce themselves and say how excited they were for her to come there. "That meant a lot to me," she said.
The deal to dive with UWGB comes with a scholarship, as well. As Franzwa's mother, Debbie Rollinger, said, "If she can come out of undergraduate with little or no debt, that's huge."
Last fall, Franzwa finished 11th at the state finals for women's diving, set a pool record for highest scoring single dive at WSHS, and won second place for women's diving in the Big Nine Conference. In 2011, she was the Big Nine champion, and she has twice been named an All-Conference Diver and the Section 1AA Diver of the Year.
While Franzwa is clearly gifted, her attitude and work ethic has a lot to do with her success as well. While Franzwa joked that she is always "screwing around at practice," Jackson said she is focused and persistent. "Crystal is a very hard worker. She is always driven, and has a goal set for herself every year," he said.
"For her to achieve what she has says something about her character and work ethic," said Rollinger.
Stover happens to be a former WSHS diver himself and a Winona State University graduate. He said having such a promising athlete from his hometown is a bonus.