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Sibling support: Austin eighth grade diver has help from her big brother

Standing on a diving board in a silent pool with teammates looking on could feel like isolation, but Austin eighth grader Reese Norton knows that she is never alone when she competes for the Packer swimming and diving team.

Reese is always under the watchful eye of her brother Riley, who took over as Austin’s diving coach this season after graduating from Austin High School last spring. Riley is a four-time state qualifying diver himself and he took sixth place at the Class A meet in 2020 after taking ninth place in his first three state meet appearances.

Reese is well aware of her big brother’s success and she’s learned to take his advice when he’s speaking to her.

“It’s a lot different having Riley as my coach, but sometimes it’s also helpful because I know his advice comes from good experience,” Reese said. “Diving is a lot of hard work. You’ve got to be able to keep going and not dilly dally.”

Riley Norton, left, has coached the Austin girls swimming and diving team this season after qualifying for four straight state meets as Packer himself. The move to coaching means that Riley will coach his sister Reese, left. Rocky Hulne/sports@austindailyherald.com

Reese has stepped up as Austin’s lead diver this fall, consistently scoring around the 150s. She hopes to improve on that number and Riley has just the advice to help her do that.

He wants her to avoid making the same mistakes he did when he was a young diver and he wants her to listen to her coach — even if that coach is the brother who lives under the same roof as her.

“I tell her to listen to your coach when they tell you what to do,” Riley said. “I didn’t do that for a few years and I kind of slacked off. In my senior year I realized that I could’ve done a lot better. You live and learn.”

Riley took on the task of moving from athlete to coach when the diving coach job opened up this year. He is also attending Riverland Community College and working a job, but Riley still has time for the Packers and his little sister.

“I wanted the divers to be able to work with a coach who knows about diving. I figured I might as well try my best to help out,” Riley said. “Reese and I are able to enjoy the sport together and we’re able to bond over it. I’m able to show her the ropes of the stuff that I did and I feel like we’ve gotten closer than we were before.”

Reese, who also competes in gymnastics, has made vast improvements since she began diving for the Packers last year as a seventh grader, but she has even bigger goals in her mind. She’s learning to shake off her fears and go after some bigger dives in the name of chasing higher scores.

“I would like to go to state like Riley did, maybe starting in eighth or ninth grade, but I need a dive called a ‘reverse’ first,” Reese said. “There are a lot of mental blocks about it some days. You’ve just got to act like you know how to do it to be able to do it.”

Riley is still making the adjustment from athlete to coach and he’s also learning the psychology of a diver by watching how his sister reacts to her good days and her bad days.

“It’s frustrating sometimes if she has a bad day at practice. If she can’t get something done correctly or she can’t do a certain dive, she kind of gives me the silent treatment because she’s ornery with me. But when we all sit down to eat, she forgets about it and we move on,” Riley said. “She reminds me of myself. I’m hoping she does better than I did.”

The Packers will host a virtual meet against Northfield in Bud Higgins Pool at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Reese Norton dives in front of her brother and diving coach Riley Norton in practice Monday. Rocky Hulne/sports@austindailyherald.com