Elizabeth Howorth figured she had gone out on top.
She had won the state 1-meter diving title with a record score. She turned down a diving scholarship to the University of Denver. She was ready to dig into biochemistry studies at Nebraska.
“At the time, I thought it was a really easy decision,” Howorth said. “I had accomplished everything I wanted — winning state and setting the state record.”
Turns out, the Elkhorn South grad may be going out waaaay on top.
A nationwide panel of nine judges recently selected Howorth as the National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association All-America diving national champion. Both Howorth and her mom, Deb, were “shocked” when they found out after it was posted on the NISCA website.
They knew Elizabeth had the best day of her career at state, but neither knew just how good it was.
“It was a shocker for us, but I think it's always been there,” said Deb, also the coach of the Elkhorn/Elkhorn South diving teams. “It was nice to see it come together like that in her biggest meet.”
It came together better for Howorth than for more than 900 other divers across the country.
Each was allowed to submit one meet to the NISCA. Judges scored it as if they were watching live, and national champion and All-America selections weren't made until after Memorial Day, when every high school meet was completed. Two other Elkhorn/Elkhorn South divers, both juniors-to-be, earned All-America honors — Payton Conrad and Howorth's younger sister Anna.
No feedback is given from the judges, so Elizabeth and Deb took their best guesses as to how Elizabeth won the national championship.
“I knew I had talent in diving, but I didn't think I had that much talent,” Elizabeth said. “I think the reason I got it was my confidence in myself. All of the practice and the repetition, I knew exactly how to do them and how to do them properly.”
Her consistency throughout an 11-dive program is why Deb thought her daughter received such high grades.
“If I look at it as a coach, she has wonderful takeoffs and she dives consistently throughout a meet,” Deb said. “You can't blow any one of those 11 dives and expect to have a chance.”
Elizabeth also has shown the ability to make adjustments during meets.
“She has a very good knack of knowing where she is in the air,” Deb said. “It showed in gymnastics, and she's not one who practices a ton. She just naturally has the ability to fine-tune things when she has to.”
Elizabeth admits to an unorthodox approach to making last-minute changes.
“My adjustments come from looking at the scoreboard,” she said. “I look at my scores and figure out how many points I need to get where I can be. I know it's not the best way to dive, but I've done the technical things over and over again.”
Howorth may make another change.
She doesn't regret setting aside the Denver diving scholarship to attend Nebraska. Deb said her daughter's long-term goal is to attend pharmacy school. But Elizabeth will “just stay in shape, work out some, and maybe make some changes her sophomore year,” Deb said.
Said Elizabeth: “Right now, I just want to stay close to home, and after a year, I think I'll be ready.”
Elizabeth has never been big about the club diving scene, so she will continue to work with her mother while weighing her options and taking a full load of classes. Elizabeth also said she will help Deb coach the Elkhorn divers, but she has eliminated coaching as a career option.
This summer, Elizabeth is coaching a group of kids at the Shadow Ridge Country Club in the Elkhorn area. While noting that “my little kids I do coach are undefeated,” Elizabeth said she has even more respect for how her mother manages and teaches the Stormin' Antlers divers.
“I'm a much better competitor than I am a coach,” Elizabeth said. “I have no patience. I'm not good at teaching others how to do this because they don't pick it up as quickly as I do. I feel bad for them that I can't help them as much as my mom has helped me.”
Those three sentences may put a bigger smile on Deb's face than either the state record or national championship.
“She's realized it takes a lot more to coach than it does to dive,” Deb said. “I'm glad she's learned that lesson.”