At 5:30 in the morning, the sun has not yet peaked over the
horizon, the birds have not yet begun to chirp and the frost is
just threatening to rest on the grass. But inside Canham
Natatorium, the area around the pool is alive with action like
it’s the middle of the afternoon.

For freshman diver Elyse Lee, early wakeups and training before
dawn have become one of the most brutal aspects of being a
collegiate athlete. Waking up to rigorous training like dry-land
exercises (to increase stamina and flexibility) or body contortions
into three meters of water — it’s better than a cold
shower.

Lee, who went to high school in Albion, spent the past four
years of diving as an undefeated state champion. Michigan diving
coach Chris Bergère regards Lee as one of his top divers
coming into the very young program — a team that has 15
freshmen on the roster.

“She already knows how to compete,” Bergère
said. “She has a game face. I’ve seen her dive in
meets, so she has that experience that some of our other new divers
aren’t coming in with.”

But even Bergère admits that Lee has some basic
fundamentals she needs to work on. Standing at the edge of the pool
each day, he watches her lunge into the depths of the pool again
and again, critiquing each dive and explaining to her how she can
improve the next one.

“You need a tighter tuck on that … You came in just
a bit over the top there,” Bergère said to his
freshman.

For every jump into the pool, he has a suggestion as soon as her
head emerges from the depths of the water. Bergère believes
that correcting the mechanics of Lee’s dives is what will
make her more effective in competition and help her to make a
better transition into her new genre of collegiate diving.

Lee is reserved about what kind of competition she’s faced
in the past and how it stacks up to NCAA diving. In high school,
diving was more of a casual, fun activity for Lee. There were both
athletes of her own caliber and those just learning to dive or just
trying it out. In comparison, diving for a Division I school
provides an atmosphere where each team member and competitor is
skilled, aggressive and hard working.

“(It’s) intense,” Lee said. “I think
I’ll be alright, because I consider myself (to be someone)
that steps up when it comes to a meet. But I definitely have a
couple of weak points that Chris (Bergère) has been trying
to fix with me.”

In Saturday’s meet against swimming and diving powerhouse
Florida, Lee took fifth place in both the three-meter and one-meter
springboard dives. The points she earned for her team were the
first of what she hopes will be many in her collegiate career, and
Bergère thinks she is headed in the right direction.

Although Lee couldn’t continue the undefeated streak she
left back in high school, practices seem to be revealing how
she’ll compete later down the road. Bergère is
confident that all of his young divers who perform well in practice
will eventually be able to transfer that over to their routines
during meets.

Lee and the young Wolverine squad will get another opportunity
for victory when they take on the Spartans in East Lansing on Oct.
27.

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