Lily Witte is an exceptional talent – one that doesn’t come around very often especially in a small town such as Dexter – and also an exceptional person, teammate, friend, daughter and sister. Only a sophomore at Dexter HS, Witte finished first in diving for the second consecutive year at the Division 2 MHSAA State Finals with a Division 2 record score of 486.95 points.
She was best in the state – by far.
But Witte’s accomplishments, dreams and ambitions go way beyond the borders of our great state. She is one of the best divers in her age group in the country and has represented Team USA at many events, including several overseas. So while there are plenty of great places to begin our dive into telling Witte’s story, let’s start there.
Witte says she is “proud and humbled” to represent her country in international events and grateful for the opportunity to travel. She really enjoyed competing in Dresden, Germany and Santiago, Chile in 2019.
“When I have been fortunate enough to travel as Team USA, we travel together, stay together, eat together, practice together, and cheer for each other when we are competing,” says Witte. “It is much more of a team spirit than at national competitions, which I love. There isn’t much time for sightseeing, but it’s still a great experience and we do get to experience a little bit of the host country’s culture.
“We were in a part of Germany that was the old East Germany, and we saw both the beautiful old architecture and palaces as well as parts of the city influenced by communist rule. When we were in Germany, we were able to wear Team USA gear anywhere and move pretty freely throughout Dresden. However for the trip to Chile, security was a big concern. We could not wear anything identifying ourselves as United States citizens, even on the plane. The only time we wore our Team USA gear was on deck. We were escorted everywhere we went, and we had to be back to our hotel before dark. Five weeks after we were there for the Junior Pan Am Games, the Chilean Social Outbreak originated right in Santiago where we were and there was massive riots.”
Witte says it’s great to meet and talk to divers from all around the world as well as getting immersed in different languages and cultures of the host country.
“We’ve had some pretty interesting local meals, and usually I will give most things a try,” she says. “Some of my teammates who are picky eaters have taught me to travel with a stash of food from home in my luggage, just in case. I also really enjoyed travelling and getting closer with the other divers from all over the United States that are on Team USA. They are a very talented and a wonderful, supportive group and I count them among my closest friends.”
Her finishes at international competitions have been impressive. She was first on 1-meter, 3-meter and platform at the Canadian Nationals Qualifier in 2015. In the Junior Pan American Games in 2017 (representing Team USA) in Victoria, British Columbia she was fourth, fourth and fifth. At the Dresden Youth Games in Dresden, Germany in April 2019, was sixth and 14th. And at the Junior Pan American Games in 2019 in Santiago, Chile August 2019, she was fourth and sixth.
She also has done exceptionally well at recent Junior National Competitions. In 2019, she was first in the 1-meter, second in 3-meter and second in platform; in 2018, she was first in 1-meter, second in 3-meter and eighth in platform; and in 2017, she was first in 1-meter, first in 3-meter and third in platform.
Witte qualified and competed in her first Nationals at age 8 in 2013 in Minnesota and placed 21st in 1-meter.
In 2019 Witte had the opportunity to qualify for USA Senior Nationals. At 14, she was one of the youngest divers there competing with college, post collegiate, and Olympic divers.
“It was a wonderful but nerve-wracking experience,” she says. “One morning I counted five Olympic divers in my warm up group. My goals were just to survive, not be last, and not to look like an idiot. I luckily accomplished all three.”
Despite facing some of the best divers in the country and even the world, Witte says she has been able to deal with the nerves when she walks out on the board or platform.
“I still do get a little bit nervous for every meet, not just the big ones,” she says. “But I have learned to control my nervousness before the start of a competition. I think that all the years of competing for DCAC in the local WISC summer league gave me lots of low pressure meet experience.
“When competing nationally or internationally, there is a lot of preparation. When I practice, I practice with the same focus and intensity as if I was at a meet, so that when I am at a meet, it feels a little more like practice. Knowing that I have done these dives hundreds (if not thousands) of times in practice helps give me confidence.”
Most of her success so far have come on the springboard 1 and 3 meter. She says she enjoys diving on all three (1m, 3m platform) but because of the pandemic, tower (platform diving) access was severely limited.
“I went from March 2020 to October 2020 without platform access, and then after just a couple practices, we were shut down again and I didn’t get to get on a tower again until late December 2020, so I have some work to do there,” she says. “I will look for opportunities in 2021 to improve my springboard lists and continue to develop on tower.”
Witte, 15, started diving when she was 5 years old at DCAC with Coach Kate Riedel. Her older sisters swam and dove, and “I just followed in their footsteps,” she says.
“Diving just seemed to come easy and Coach Kate made it really fun,” Witte said. “I also swam, and did the normal kids’ sports like Community Ed soccer and tennis, but swimming and diving were the sports I liked the most. When I was 7 and started throwing doubles, Coach Kate recommended to my parents that I look into club diving.”
While she was not ready for a big commitment, Witte started attending club practices once or twice a week at U of M, while still swimming and diving with DCAC. She moved to Legacy Diving when she was 9.
“I was at the U of M Dive Club for about a year or so until the U of M dive coach left and the club shut down, and that’s when I moved over to Legacy,” she says. “I have been diving there ever since. My main coach at Legacy is Ed Goodman, but I also train with Coach Buck Smith and Coach Dan Gironza. They are all excellent coaches and I enjoy training with all of them. Each one has a little bit different style and emphasis in their coaching, which helps to make me a well-rounded diver.”
Lily, the daughter of Trudy Zedaker-Witte and Wade Witte, has 3.95 GPA and also has participated in the IronDread Strength and Conditioning program.
“Unfortunately, with Covid hitting in the middle of my freshman year, I didn’t have an opportunity to explore many other interests or clubs at school,” she says. “I participated in band through 8th grade, but due to my training schedule I was not able to make it work in high school. Between dive practice, strength and conditioning, swimming whenever I can, and homework, I don’t have much free time.”
She not only was a diver for the Dexter team but also jumped in the water and swam a few events. She even swam on Dexter’s 200 free relay team which placed 12th at States and on the medley relay team which placed 11th. And she was named to the MISCA Michigan Dream Team and named D2 Diver of the Year.
One of the highlights for Lily was swimming on the Dexter team with her older sister Lauren.
“It was really special to get to have this final season with Lauren and I together on the team,” she says. “She is a great captain and very team oriented. I was very happy that she had a successful senior year! We both love swim and dive (she can dive too, but concentrates on swimming) and we both put the team first, and try to help out however we can.
“It was really great that we got to swim a relay together for Dexter at States. What’s funny is that she is very small and petite, built more like a diver, and I am taller and more muscular like a swimmer.”
Lily plans on returning to the Dexter program next year and to “swim whatever events Coach Bergen needs.”
As for bigger picture, long-term goals?
“I would like to dive in college and continue to balance academics with developing as a diver,” she says. “I hope to continue on TeamUSA, wherever that may lead.”