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High school swim/dive

Sports Spotlight: Karlie Woodall fights through injuries, distance to dive for Tomahawk

Story By Andrew Goldstein
Local Sports Published 10/12/2020 9:30PM
Mosinee -
It's usually hard to put an athlete's commitment into numbers.

But with Tomahawk diver Karlie Woodall, it's easy: 90 minutes in a car, three times per week, just to be able to practice.

That's only the beginning of what she's had to overcome to get on a diving board.

"I remember my mom took me to this one swim meet we saw this diver and were like 'oh man, this is something you could do,'" Woodall said.

Ever since that day six years ago, Woodall has spent a lot of time on board tops and pool bottoms.

"She's very athletic, very powerful, very coachable and willing to learn," said dive coach Paul Heykes. "She's very self-motivated."

Woodall has to be a self-starter, considering the pool she comes to for practice in Mosinee is almost an hour from her home in Tomahawk.

"I always come here now, three times per week, maybe," Woodall said. "I was also traveling to Ladysmith on Monday nights too, which is a long drive."

There are no public pools with diving boards in Tomahawk, so Hatchets swimming coach Theresa L'Esperance had to figure out something else.

"We've looked everywhere to find a board," L'Esperance said. "We've gone everywhere and we've done everything we can for her."

"You've got to drive long distances and make some sacrifices to pursue this sport in the Northwoods," Heykes said.

Woodall is no stranger to sacrifice, after knee injuries turned her life upside down.

"It actually started in seventh grade when I first tore my ACL," Woodall said. "Over time, like two years, it just kind of started to hurt more. I went to the doctor's. They told me I ended up tearing my meniscus too, so I ended up losing 20 percent of my meniscus and had to get my ACL replaced for a second time."

That second ACL surgery kept her from competing for a whole year.

When she got back in the pool, she could hardly even kick.

"She was in the pool and she was pulling," L'Esperance said. "She pulled for a whole season and never used her legs."

None of that stopped Woodall from getting back on the board her junior year.

"If we have a little twinge in the knee, she still continues to work," L'Esperance said. "I don't think I've ever seen her miss a day of practice."

Every rehab session, every car ride and every dive led Woodall to Madison, where she placed in the top 10 at last fall's Division Two state dive meet.

"A lot of divers would have given up, given the obstacles we've had," Heykes said.

"Just being able to do the sport is something I love and am very grateful for," Woodall said.

When the road to get here has already been so long, what's another 90 minutes in a car?

"I think a lot of times we take stuff for granted," Woodall said. "I pretty much just remind myself to do the things that I can while I'm still able to."

Woodall's goal is to get on the podium at this year's state meet.

She is also planning to dive in college after this season and has been looking at UW-La Crosse and UW-Eau Claire.
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