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Senior stays involved through injury

The Rutgers diving team has been successful this season, much of which can be attributed to the leadership of senior co-captain Katie Kearney.

Kearney leads a Scarlet Knights diving unit that has established a clear identity as it works toward next month’s Big East Championships.

The road to her senior year has not been as smooth. Entering the season, everything surrounding Kearney’s role on the team was uncertain.

She underwent shoulder surgery last spring, which put her in a sling for three weeks with a recovery process to follow.

“Recovery was hard. It was a lot of stretching, a lot of strengthening,” Kearney said. “It ended up that my recovery was going fast, and it was going well, so that I was able to get in in October and start competing in the first meet of the season.”

She had to deal with the mental side of recovering from her first serious injury.

“I was very concerned about [getting to the level I am now],” Kearney said. “Diving for three years, it did go through my head that, ‘I’m in pain,’ but I’ve been able to function. Then it could go through my head that if I get surgery, maybe it’ll be better or maybe it’ll be worse.”

Kearney said she worked hard to return at full strength, and the coaching staff recognized it, re-instating her role as captain.

“She is a role model, coming off of the surgery and getting back up on the boards and doing whatever she can do to help the program,” said head coach Phil Spiniello. “Just her attitude and mentality and positive energy outside the pool as a captain is modeled for the other women day in and day out.”

Kearney would not let the injury force her leadership to suffer, choosing to stay involved even when she could not train.

“It was being there mentally and emotionally for the team,” Kearney said. “I was there. Even if I couldn’t dive at every single practice, I was either helping my coach or sitting there encouraging them along the way. I don’t like sitting out, but I would certainly think it would be worse to have to sit out and not be there for them.”

Being with the other athletes on the diving board and providing support kept her positive about her own recovery, Kearney said.

“She’s helped me because she’s given me corrections on my dives,” said junior Olivia Harry. “She’ll give me corrections from her point of view, and it’s good to get someone else’s corrections.”

Kearney has not only recovered, but has begun to hit her stride in diving. She led the team in the 1-meter in two of its last three meets.

Her mentality and work ethic reflect the type of student she is. Kearney is trying for a degree in evolutionary anthropology and criminal justice and has had unique internship opportunities.

Kearney emphasizes the possibilities available within the field of Anthropology.

“Katie is an excellent student,” Spiniello said. “She takes the same mentality that she has in her academics onto the boards.”

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