It was the freshman swimmer’s first dive in the prelims at the Southeastern Conference Swimming and Diving Championships on Feb. 14-18. She took a deep breath, balanced on the springboard and began to set it into oscillation. Finding the maximum response the board could give, she threw her body into the air, attempting to complete her routine. She busted.
Once she emerged from the water, Brooke Schultz saw her score: 22. This put her in last place, No. 34 out of 34, and only the top eight qualify for a chance to win a title. Schultz focused on the task ahead.
Because of Schultz’s previous success in the overall season, her 1-meter preliminary round was less than ideal, she said. The Fayetteville native believed in herself and her ability to win, but her back was against the wall. Her 22-point performance was her first dive out of six total, and she was hopeful that if she successfully completed her next five dives, she would have a chance to move into the finals.
“It was the worst dive of the season,” Schultz said.
Although Schultz’ first dive hurt her score tremendously, her mindset was what helped her move up the leaderboard, she said.
“I always had the confidence to tell myself I can do this,” Schultz said. “The last couple of months leading up to the meet, I have been diving pretty consistently, so I had to come in with that confidence that I could do it.”
By sticking to her plan and going for her dives fearlessly, Schultz’ next five dives allowed her to move on to the 1-meter finals by the skin of her teeth, placing seventh.
The finals came, and Schultz competed with grace and confidence. Her most difficult dive was the front two-and-a-half pike, which is a skill that requires two-and-a-half flips while bending at the waist with straight legs all before stretching out and nose diving into the water. She worked on the dive throughout the season, but when she was about to dive, it was all about mindset, she said.
This dive has been an inconsistent one all year for her, but she knew had to execute it when it mattered, Schultz said.
She nailed her dive.
She won the 1-meter finals easily with a cumulative score of 363.45, a Texas A&M pool record.
Not only was she the first Razorback to win an SEC diving title, but she went on to win a second title in the three-meter springboard, setting a personal-best score of 385.65. She was also named SEC Diver of the Meet.
While some freshmen find it difficult to recover from mistakes, Schultz has the ability to stay level headed through positive reinforcement.
Schultz’ outlook on diving is what separates her from others, freshman Maha Amer said.
“She approaches competition in a different way,” Amer said. “She thinks positively about every dive and helps people push forward to be their best.”
Senior Chelsea Tatlow thinks Schultz’ success is attributed to her attitude and work ethic, she said.
“She is always willing to do humble jobs to help out the team and consistently performs at a top diving level for the world,” Tatlow said. “That being said, she is never arrogant in her successes and always supportive and kind to her teammates.”
This season, Schultz’ goal was to win the SEC, and she said she thinks her confidence from training is what gave her the ability to have a dynamic first year, she said.
“If you don’t have confidence in yourself, you need to tell yourself positive things,” Schultz said. “You need that positive mindset because if you don’t, it will be a lot tougher.”
Over the season, the six-time SEC Diver of the Week has proven why she is the best diver in the conference. While she has received numerous accolades, she takes them all in stride.
“All the weekly honors that came with it were not goals but were confidence boosters throughout the season,” Schultz said. “I never want to focus just on one accomplishment because it distracts you from what’s to come.”
Schultz’s advantage in diving meets is how she attacks each dive, evaluates it for what is it and moves onto the next one, she said.
“It works that way in a meet.” Schultz said. “When I am diving, I never want to get too excited about one dive because I have three or four more dives on my list. I think about it like [the whole] season. You are excited in the moment, but eventually it will die down, and there is something else coming.”
The next meet event coming up for Schultz is March 5-7 at the University of Minnesota, and her focus is to take first place and qualify for Nationals.
“Obviously, you don’t go into a meet trying to lose, so the ultimate goal is to win,” Schultz said. “I feel confident going into it, but there aren't any free passes. You have to work for it.”