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Individually, but together: That’s how a pair of UWM divers has taken the sport of diving by storm

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Individually -- but together. That's how a pair of athletes from UW-Milwaukee have taken their sport by storm.

UW-Milwaukee's dominant diving duo, junior Rachel Margis and senior KJ Heger have won the Horizon League "Diver of the Week" award a combined 29 times. Along with Coach Todd Hill, theirs is a collaborative effort. Margis is a former gymnast from Racine.

"She's an extremely graceful diver. She has great body lines going into the water, good entries. She jumps very high, and all that stuff translates into a nice looking, well-rounded diver," Panthers Diving Coach Todd Hill said.

"You have to be pretty confident in your dives and not let that get to your head or anything. You just have to be confident going in and keep a level head I guess," Margis said.

Heger is from Rockford, Illinois. Both of his parents were elite level trampolinists and his father is a Hall of Famer whose routines hold up pretty well on tape. Heger has spent much of his life up in the air.

"In trampoline, I learned a lot of where I was in the air. I was just able to open my eyes and know where I am in the air, so in diving, it follows to knowing where I am about to hit the water," Heger said.

"It took him a little bit of time to translate those flipping skills over the water, but once we figured that stuff out, he is tremendously powerful, tremendous awareness of where he is in the air, and that success has translated to the success he's had over the last four years,"  Coach Hill said.

A college diver competes against himself or herself, while at the same time, they are competing against their peers. That's the same situation that takes place at UWM practice.

"It's a playful peer pressure. I think that they rib each other a little bit during practice. You know, 'my dive was better than yours." It's fun. They push each other that way," Coach Hill said.

"It's always good to have other people there to learn from because there's only so much you can learn from a coach or from a TIVO. You have to see it yourself and then try to mimic it and watch what they're doing and apply it to yourself,"

The all-in approach has Margis and Heger springing to success. You don't get good at this sport overnight, so staying good is just one of the challenges these two must meet.

"Balancing school and athletics is probably the hardest part. As far as health-wise, I've been doing trampoline and stuff like this for so long that there's a little bit of knit and tear, but I prefer healing myself. I do a pretty good job of it. I know when I need to stop, when I need to rest, when I need to take a little bit of a break," Heger said.

Divers compete on the one-meter and three-meter springboards in the Horizon League.

Occasionally, this UWM pair will compete at a meet that includes the higher platform. Heger in particular says his preference in practice is always to go up as high as he can.

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