MUSCATINE — When Jaycie Klein went out for the Muscatine girls swimming and diving team as a freshman, she was by no means a diver.
With a nudge from her mom, Triscia, a former Muscatine diver, Jaycie, who had participated in gymnastics growing up, gave it a try.
It turned out she enjoyed it, and, on Thursday, the Muscatine senior signed a letter of intent to continue her diving career at Minnesota State-Mankato, a Division-II program in the Northern Sun Conference.
“It feels really good,” Klein said. “I love diving. I’m glad I can keep my career going.”
Despite having little experience with the sport until high school, Klein finished with an outstanding high school career.
She earned trips to the state diving meet all four seasons, finishing 19th in her first trip to Marshalltown in 2012 and improving each season after. On Nov. 6, Klein capped her career by finishing a career-best fourth at the state meet with a 480.90 score, her best-ever at the state level.
“I thought she did very well. She was very competitive as far as top five or six divers in the state,” Muscatine coach Judd Anderson said. “… Given different circumstances, she easily could have been the winner.”
Klein was the first Muscatine diver to earn a top-six finish and reach the podium when she finished sixth as a junior in 2014, and she was the first to score at the state meet since Carrie Havemann was 16th in 2000.
She leaves as the school’s record holder in both 6-dive and 11-dive events.
“Jaycie’s gone on and done all kinds of camps and thing such as that,” Anderson said. “She’s kind of taken more excitement and interest in it.”
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Now, she’ll look to take that success to the collegiate level at Minnesota State, where she felt a sense of comfort. Ultimately, she chose to dive for the Mavericks over Northern Iowa.
“I really connected with the coaches and the team,” Klein said, “and I liked the campus a lot.”
Nathan Owens is in his 12th year as the Mavericks coach this season, and swimmers have performed well under his leadership. All 19 school records have been set during his tenure, and Minnesota State has earned nine postseason appearances and finished in the top 25 nationally six times since he took over.
Klein will also be working with diving coach Chris White, the 2012 Division II Male Diver of the Year, who joined the program this season.
“He can still get up on trampoline and do the coolest tricks," Klein said. "I know he can teach me cool stuff.”
It didn’t hurt that Davenport North graduate Hannah Guy is also a diver for the Mavericks.
“She’s a big part, too. I stayed with her on my recruiting visit,” Klein said. “She’s a lot of fun.”
With her successful high school career behind her, though, Klein has already thought about what she hopes to achieve at Minnesota State.
“I want to make the NCAA championships,” Klein said. “That’s my main goal to get.”