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March 24, 2007

Columbia, S.C. – – On March 9, Lyndsey Havens made the final dive of her competitive career. The senior diver ended her career with a splash, finishing 11th and earning Honorable Mention All-American honors on the one-meter springboard at her first NCAA Championship appearance.

Havens’ success at the NCAA’s is even more impressive considering the challenges that she had to face to make it to the upper level of collegiate diving. The diver has been plagued by shoulder injuries throughout her career and suffered a dislocation on the first day of the Zone B Championships, which almost prevented her from qualifying for NCAAs. However, Havens came back and finished eighth on the second day of Zones, which gave her one of the final qualifying spots for the Championships.

Now that the diving season is over, the twenty-two year old will prepare for a less chaotic life. Havens knows that it will be difficult to sit on the sidelines of the sport that has consumed so much of her life, but she also looks forward to the reduced physical and mental strain that the end of her diving career will bring.

Havens has been a natural athlete all her life. Her older sisters’ cheerleading coach noticed her acrobatic skill at a very young age and she was put on the fast track to competitive gymnastics. At age 11, she started diving in a summer league and has been diving ever since.

“I did gymnastics until I was about 13. There was a time where I was doing both gymnastics and diving, but then both sports got so serious that I had to choose one,” Havens said. “I was going to be too tall to do anything more with gymnastics, so I chose diving.”

Havens had immediate success in her early diving career, winning a Junior Olympic national title in eighth grade. However, Havens also began her battle with shoulder injuries that same year. Havens has had four shoulder surgeries since eighth grade, including two complete reconstructions.

“My problem was that the ligaments were torn all around my shoulder, so I would dislocate it constantly. I would dislocate it in my in my sleep, while I was diving, all the time. So I had the surgeries to tighten it down.”

When Havens decided to come to South Carolina and dive for Coach Todd Sherritt she was coming off of her fourth shoulder surgery, and wasn’t even sure that she could make it through the four years. However, with dedication and perseverance, Havens was able to make it through four years, and became one of the premier women divers in the SEC.

“I feel like I am a much better diver than I was four years ago when I came here,” said Havens. “I think a lot of it has been Todd understanding my injury and knowing that some days I just can’t do it. I think that has been the main thing that has gotten me through the four years: our communication on when I can push through and when I can’t.”

Havens has refused to let her pain deter her and has pushed forward. This has been Havens’ best season; she has had at least one event victory in every dual meet. She also led the SEC on both the one- and three-meter springboards for a considerable portion of the season. At the SEC championships, held in her hometown of Lexington, Ky., Havens finished sixth on the one-meter board. However, Havens doesn’t deny the mental toll that her injury has had on her.

“It definitely affects me mentally. I am in pain and I feel like my shoulder is loose, whether I think about it or not, I’m wondering on every dive if it is going to come out of place,” continued, Havens. “I have had really bad dislocations that have been really painful. There have been times when it has been out of place for an hour. Those are horrible memories, and that is all I think about when I am in pain, that it is going to happen again.”

On the other hand, Havens credits her injury for making her realize just how passionate she is about diving.

“My favorite days were actually the ones when I couldn’t dive because I was in pain. When I was at the pool watching my teammates practice it made me really miss it. At those times, I felt like I could just get in and dive. I know that will be the hardest part next season: being at the pool everyday watching them practice.”

Now that Havens’ competitive career is drawing to an end she will have to adjust to a life that doesn’t revolve around diving. A task she says will be hard because she will be pursing a fifth year to get her degree and will subsequently still be working with the diving team to keep her scholarship. Although Havens knows that not physically diving everyday will be a major adjustment, she also feels like it will afford her more time to discover new passions.

With her diving career completed, Havens plans to pursue internships and other professional opportunities in hopes of determining her career path. She is a public relations major and plans to intern for NBC in Manhattan this summer. Havens also intends to see a shoulder specialist in California and get her shoulder repaired now that she will no longer face the strain of daily diving.

Havens also says that she doesn’t know what she will do with all of her new post-diving free time. She’ll no longer be required to stay in Columbia on the weekends or check in with anyone when she does go out of town. One thing that Havens has decided is that she will do the activities that she wasn’t allowed to do while diving because of her shoulder.

“I think when I’m done diving I definitely want to ski and play tennis. Those have been two things that I haven’t been allowed to because of my shoulders. They didn’t want to add insult to injury with me playing tennis on the side, so those are definitely things that I’m going to do as soon as I’m finished.”