U diver makes presence felt in Division I

Brian Stensaas

You probably remember hearing the phrase in “Back to the Future.”
“If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything,” Marty McFly tells his father, then in high school.
Following a typical Hollywood plot, everything works out just fine in the end.
Minnesota diver Tracy LaVoi has lived with that phrase in mind. But she doesn’t need a DeLorean and a frizzy-haired scientist to help her along the way. Encouragement and self-motivation will do just fine.
LaVoi came to the Gophers two years ago, fulfilling her dream to dive for a Division I school. Though she wasn’t offered a full scholarship, and she had some rough moments, she stuck with diving.
Her college career has led her near the top of the Big Ten conference. She took second last month in the 3-meter Big Ten diving competition, helping the Gophers wrap up their second-straight Big Ten title.
Katie Brink, LaVoi’s high school diving coach at St. Cloud Tech, said it was determination that got Tracy to the Division I level.
“Tracy is just so determined,” Brink said. “If she wanted to be president someday, she could do it. She has worked hard for everything she has got.”
And that includes making it to a Division I school, on a book-scholarship-only status.
As her high school career came to an end, LaVoi sent several letters to schools citing her talent. All she was hearing back then was the call of Division II schools or hardly anything at all.
Besides St. Cloud State and other smaller schools, LaVoi was recruited by Wisconsin and Minnesota. She went on her recruiting trip with the Gophers and never gave it a second thought.
“I really liked the campus and didn’t want to hold anything back,” LaVoi said. “It was so overwhelming, it was a dream almost.”
For Brink, there was no question in her mind that LaVoi was ready to dive at the Division I level.
“She had her heart set on D-1 and deserves it,” Brink said. “In Tracy’s case, you get what you work for, not what you wish for.”
Despite the question of whether she was ready for Division I, LaVoi stayed positive, making it to the state meet for the fourth-straight time her senior year. She raised a few Division I eyebrows by taking third.
“A lot of people told me I should just go Division II,” she said. “But I had seen the Division I meets and was like `Wow, this is what I want to do.'”
Not only was LaVoi set on going to Minnesota because of the Division I atmosphere, but she said that she wanted to stay close to her home in St. Cloud as well.
LaVoi’s career started early back home, following in the footsteps of her sister — acting as a shadow if you will.
“Everything she did, I followed her,” LaVoi said. “She was in gymnastics, and was good, so I wanted to be in gymnastics.”
It was after spending time as a gymnast and a member of the track and field team that LaVoi decided she was going to go full-speed ahead with diving.
“I didn’t want to give up the other sports, but definitely by far diving was my favorite,” LaVoi said.
Though she made it to the state competition as a freshman, LaVoi recalls finishing in last place. She came to Minnesota three years later as a walk-on, lowest on the team.
But now she is on the verge of possibly making the NCAA meet. That’s something that is not out of reach with the NCAA Zone C meet held at the Aquatic Center this weekend.
“I really want to make nationals,” she said. “It is going to be really hard, though. I’ve just had just a great year, to make nationals would be, like, the frosting on the cake. I’m not going to be totally disappointed if I don’t make it, it would just be awesome if I did.”
And it would make for a perfect Hollywood ending.

Brian Stensaas covers swimming and diving and welcomes comments at [email protected]