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From high school to college, Dugger's diving career had a smooth transition

Shayna Dugger lifts off the one-meter board during one of MSUM's women's swimming and diving meets this year. Alecs Peters/MSUM

It didn't take long before Detroit Lakes native Shayna Dugger knew she belonged on the college diving board.

It took approximately one practice for Dugger to realize her potential diving for the Minnesota State University Moorhead Dragon women's squad, after an illustrious prep career at Detroit Lakes.

After setting the standard for the Laker diving program by qualifying for four straight state diving meets, Dugger quickly became a mainstay as a Dragon women's diving team point leader and inking her name in the MSUM record book.

As a true freshman, Dugger broke three MSUM diving records, won the RMAC Championships on both the one-meter and three-meter boards and qualified for the NCAA Division II National Championships.

She was also named RMAC's Diver of the Year in her first season.

But it was in that first practice where the light quickly turned on for the skilled DL diver.

"Coming into college, I had no idea about how it worked, I did no research or anything," Dugger said. "I had never dove off the three-meter board, either.

"I came into college in the dark."

But much like being a natural on the one-meter board in high school, the challenge of transitioning onto the three-meter board came easy.

"I loved it," Dugger said. "I maybe better on the one-meter, but I just love the adrenaline rush coming off the three-meter."

Dugger was the first of three freshmen who jumped on the three-meter board and from then on, became a leader on it.

And it's not like her performances on the one-meter diving board dropped. Instead she became proficient on both, which eventually led to her being named as a captain in just her junior season.

"Shayna is a very determined individual and she is fearless," said MSUM first-year diving coach Nate Brisley. "She has very good focus and is willing to try new skills.

"That is very hard to find in a diver."

Dugger has one obstacle, though, which she has not yet conquered and she has a chance to revisit that challenge in the upcoming NCCA Division II National Championships in March.

After qualifying for the National Championships in both the one-meter and three-meter events her first two years, Dugger hasn't been able to surpass "Black Tuesday," which is the name for the National preliminary diving championships.

Dugger qualified for her third-consecutive National meet in a home dual with St. Cloud State University last Saturday with a one-meter diving score of 414.05, which surpassed the cut mark of 390.

The NCAA National Division II meet will be held in Birmingham, Ala., in March.

To survive the cut, there will be 32 divers each in the one and three-meter diving events, vying for the 16 final spots.

It's a do-or-die day, which is why it's called "Black Tuesday."

"It's very challenging and the competition is as good as it gets," Brisley said. "All the divers are basically on the same level, it just comes down who's mentally on their game.

"It's one of the toughest diving meets there is."

Dugger learned plenty during her first two trips to the Pre-Nationals and was even knocking on the door to earn a berth in the National finals by finishing 20th last year.

"What I learned is what separates each diver on that day is their mental attitude," Dugger said.

Dugger's hard-work ethic is second to none and it's an attribute she carried over from her Laker days and learning underneath diving coach Bobbi Jo Koons.

"Bobbi Jo used to say, 'Just chuck it,' and that's what I do (at MSUM)," Dugger added.

Since the college season is a marathon, which spans over two high school seasons, endurance is vital.

It's a notion Dugger accepted handily, with her time in the weight room training just about half with her workouts in the pool.

During the offseason, she doesn't take any time off in between the three jobs she works, plus going to class, where she is majoring in exercise science and strength and conditioning.

Her schedule is packed, starting with weight training at 5:30 a.m. and on to a jam-packed day of jobs, classes and more conditioning.

"I need to stay busy, I don't know anything different," Dugger said.

Brisley describes Dugger's style as "best of both worlds" in that she's a hybrid between a power diver and a graceful one.

"She visually identifies with both kind of styles," the Dragon coach said.

"Shayna trusts her stuff and she belongs in the Nationals."

Dugger will be vying for a new title, with the women's swimming and diving team partaking in the NSIC Conference Championships, which will be held in Rochester Thursday through Sunday.

It's the first year the Dragons are in the conference. For the season, Dugger has four wins, eight second-place finishes and four third-place finishes.

She was named NSIC Diver of the Week for the week of Jan. 27-Feb. 3.

With her collegiate career chugging right along with plenty of success, Dugger is still proud of being one of the main contributors of helping a very strong Laker diving program build from the ground up.

"Bobbi Jo and I are still close and seeing divers like Jon Melgaard (now diving for the University of Minnesota Gophers) win state and (DL sophomore) Kyley Foster breaking my records, it's just awesome," Dugger said. "I help run a Dragon Diving Camp in the summer here and we have five divers from DL attending and one of them told me 'I want to be just like you!'

"That was great, it's awesome hearing that."

As one of the Laker alumni who helped inspire many other young DL divers, Dugger still has heights to reach as a Dragon.

Much like her time as a Laker, reaching those goals will not be a case of if they happened -- it will be when they happen.

Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN.