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GIRLS SWIMMING AND DIVING: Diving success leads Mady Schmidt to sign with South Dakota

After just missing out on state as a freshman, Mady Schmidt wanted to push herself. Now one of the best divers in the Northland, she's a regular at state and the newest signee at South Dakota.

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Mady Schmidt, center, signed her National Letter of Intent to dive at South Dakota on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, at Bemidji High School. Joining her were, from left, BHS head coach Woody Leindecker, mother Angela, father Danny and sister Maya. (Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer)
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BEMIDJI -- As a high school freshman, Mady Schmidt balanced heartache with hopefulness.

“(It was) my freshman year after sections,” recalled Schmidt, now a senior diver on the Bemidji High School girls swimming and diving team. “I had placed fifth, and I was just on the brink of qualifying for the state tournament.

“I had become so much more passionate about it, and I had this motivation and drive to want to be better and get better and improve. I wanted to take it to the next level and get as far as I can.”

Now one of the best divers in the Northland, Schmidt has proven she’s capable of reaching the next level. And on Wednesday, she signed her National Letter of Intent to join a Division I program at the University of South Dakota.

“When I got to visit South Dakota, I got to spend some time with the team and see what their whole program is all about,” Schmidt said. “I felt like I fit right in. My relationship with the coach, it felt so natural. That’s a big reason why I chose South Dakota.”

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Ever since the letdown of her freshman season, Schmidt has made strides on the diving board.

She placed fourth at sections as a sophomore in 2019, clinching the final spot at state and ultimately taking ninth in the Class A meet. She made the biggest leap last year as a junior, placing first at all 11 meets during the season. That included the Section 8A meet, where she claimed the diving crown with a score of 410.85. The total put her third among all divers in Class A, though she didn’t get to compete at state due to the pandemic.

“My coach has been spending a lot of time working on technique, especially board work,” Schmidt said of her improvements in diving. “It’s a big part of actually getting the dive down. Yes, getting the dive is one thing, but getting the proper mechanics to actually do that dive helps make it so much better.”

Schmidt will become the first member of the BHS swimming and diving program to dive collegiately since Jana Hedstrom did so for Concordia Moorhead and Minnesota State Moorhead from 2012-16.

Schmidt still has the grand finale of her senior year upcoming, but she can now refocus solely on the pool rather than the recruiting process on top of that.

She had her choices narrowed down to three schools: South Dakota, Wisconsin-Green Bay and Nebraska Omaha, finally deciding within the past few weeks.

“It was really hard to compare them because each had such a different campus, such a different atmosphere. They were all unique in their own way,” Schmidt said. “… It was just a really cool process, and I loved being a part of it.”

The Coyotes won out, and now they’ve got an athlete who’s diving in headfirst once her time as a Lumberjack wraps up.

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“I’ve grown such a passion for (diving) and I love coming into the pool every day,” Schmidt said. “I love being in the water, and I love jumping off a springboard every day.”

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Bemidji senior Mady Schmidt dives in a meet against Perham and Thief River Falls on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at Bemidji High School. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Micah Friez is the sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he joined the Pioneer in 2015 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing. Follow him on Twitter at @micahfriez for Lumberjack and Beaver updates.
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