Anastasia Zabel has committed to University of South Dakota
Ready physically, mentally for road ahead
November 9, 2012
Chaska’s Stasi Zabel has had to overcome two knee injuries

BY ERIC KRAUSHAR
scores@swpub.com
(published in Chaska Herald, Thursday, November 8, 2012)

Stasi Zabel could have called it a career and chalked it up to a pair of bad knees. The Chaska senior, though, decided to use two ACL surgeries within 12 months as a defining moment in her passion for the sport of diving.

This week, Zabel, the lone senior on the Chaska swimming and diving roster, is among the favorites for a spot out of Section 3A into the Class A State Meet. Had she made a different decision three years ago, things would have been a bit different. “I have been dedicated to diving since my sophomore year when I came back from the two knee injuries.
Something like that is a reality check that you don’t have something like this the entire time you’re on Earth. You have these four years in high school and maybe four years in
college. You don’t have much time and when I got injured I was forced to think about that,” she said.

In separate freak accidents — one on a trampoline in the backyard of a friend’s house and another in gymnastics — Zabel had to fight through the pain of recovery, wondering what lied ahead. Gymnastics was a casualty of the knee injuries, but allowed her to focus more on diving.

She returned to the pool deck as a sophomore and last year had a breakout season, placing fourth in the Missota Conference Championships. Her 11-dive score put her in a position to qualify for the state meet at sections, but one bad dive early on derailed what she had worked for all season. “Diving is really mental and so when you’re on the board and you have one bad dive, if you allow it to get to you it can affect your entire meet. That’s what happened last year,” said Zabel. She ended up taking 14th in Section 3A in 2011 with a score of 234.45 — more than 60 points off her conference score, which would have qualified her for the state meet.

Zabel, the lone diver competing for the Hawks at sections, said championship season is exciting, but at the same point different since her first eight dives happen before she has
teammates to cheer her on. “The process is a lot longer. Instead of five girls there are 30, so if you don’t know anybody else, it can get pretty long in between dives. It forces me to
really talk to other girls,” she said. “Sometimes it’s nice to dive when it’s quiet — teams aren’t doing their dive cheers.” “But sometimes it’s nice having your team to cheer you on and for someone to be there to talk it through with you. You need someone to remind you that even if you have a bad dive a top-four finish is still possible,” she added.

A year older, Zabel better understands what it takes mentally and physically to be among the best at what she does. Not only does she dive during practice Monday through Saturday,
but she also adds in Sunday workouts. A club diving team with college coaches this summer pushed her to greater heights and a workout at the University of Minnesota last week
introduced her to a new dive.

All the extra work has really paid off as Zabel already has set three new pool records and broke a Chaska diving record this season. Now there’s one goal left to check off her list — a
trip to state. “I want to make it to state mainly. I just want do the best I can do and not let anything get to my head. If there’s one bad dive, it’s one bad dive. When I look back at last year, what I think about the most is not my performance, but the what if. If I didn’t let one dive get to me, I still could have gone to state,” she said.

Chaska will send its team to Section 3A with the preliminary round at 5 p.m. today (Thursday) and the finals at 1 p.m. Saturday at Hutchinson’s Jerry Carlson Pool inside its middle
school. Diving is at 10 a.m. Saturday with the finals during the swimming portion of the event.

After sending two participants — Kirsten Augdahl and Caitlin Gilliland — to state in the 500 freestyle a year ago, Chaska should have a larger contingent this year. Amy Taylor (200 individual medley, 100 backstroke), Michaela Larson (100 breaststroke), McKenna Togstad (200 and 500 freestyle), Katie Ridler (100 butterf ly), Abby Grover (50 and 100 freestyle) and Kayla Emerson (100 backstroke) all are within striking distance of state-cut times.

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