Deb Howorth and daughters Elizabeth and Anna made a pact — what happens at diving practice stays at diving practice.
When mom is coach, sometimes things get a bit intense. But when everybody gets home, the normal mother-daughter routine goes back in place.
Now, about the drive home.
“There are days that in the car ride we might not say much,” said Deb, the diving coach for Elkhon/Elkhorn South. “It just gives us a break to bring things back around.”
Everyone else who's a part of the swimming and diving team appreciates how well this relationship has worked.
Not only has Deb Howorth helped build the Stormin' Antlers divers — boys and girls — into one of the state's best programs, but Elizabeth, a senior, and Anna, a sophomore, enter Thursday's state diving championships with the two highest scores in the state this season.
But there is more to the Elkhorn diving crew than the Howorth sisters. Sophomore Payton Conrad is ranked No. 4, and freshman Marrisa Bianco also qualified for the 25-diver field.
On the boys side, freshman William Gottsch has the second-best score this season at 485.30. He'll be joined on the 26-person card by senior Colton Wulfkuhl and freshman Jack Frisbie.
The girls competition begins at 9:30 a.m. at the Devaney Center, followed by the boys at 2 p.m.
Stormin' Antlers head coach Chris Jenson said the goal of the Elkhorn program has been to have a complete team. Some schools don't place much emphasis on diving, but that's exactly what Jenson didn't want to happen.
“Diving is an event in the program and it's an important part of our team,” Jenson said. “They're a huge part of what we do. We have to hold up our end of the deal on the swimming end because they contribute so much.”
Deb Howorth became a Stormin' Antlers coach when Elizabeth was in eighth grade.
Helping every diver on the squad improve has always been an important goal for Deb Howorth.
“I have very talented kids on the team,” she said. “It works out where we have a bunch of talented kids training together, and they help each other get better because they're learning from each other.”
While Elizabeth and Anna took gymnastics when they were little, the diving part of their athletic careers didn't begin until mom began coaching.
The transition from gymnastics mats to the diving board usually is smooth for the best divers, and that proved to be the case for Elizabeth and Anna.
Elizabeth leads the state with a top 11-dive score of 516.70, and Anna isn't far behind at 475.25.
Both daughters said they've enjoyed having their mother double as their coach.
“It's not awkward at all,” Elizabeth said. “She's our coach at the pool and mom at home. She keeps everything in balance.”
Anna has been diving since the sixth grade.
“I really like having my mom as my coach,” Anna said. “My sister also motivates me because I want to be where she is with her scores. It motivates all of us to know that we're helping the whole team get better.”
Deb said having Jenson and assistant coach Jay Tiltgen, the former girls coach at Omaha Burke, providing motivation for the divers has been a big boost.
“They will step in and remind the girls that she's your mom, but she's still your coach,” Deb said. “It's just a friendly reminder and it's good for them to have that kind of male role model in their life.”
Elizabeth is headed to Denver University in the fall to continue her career. The firm approach her mom has taken as coach is something Elizabeth said she has come to appreciate.
“Having her as my coach pushes me to work hard,” Elizabeth said. “That's good because she knows what I'm capable of and she knows what needs to be done to achieve great things.”
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