Before 2019 Verona Area High School graduate Conner Dugan embarks on his next journey playing tennis at Edgewood College, he will team with junior Alex Ritter one more time in the All-City Diving Championship on July 29-30 at Ridgewood Pool.
Dugan and Ritter were teammates for the Verona Area/Mount Horeb boys swim team for one year and on the Ridgewood swim team together for three years. Before that, Dugan swam for the Seminole Pool team in Fitchburg for eight years. The duo also played tennis for Verona in the spring.
“We used to have more of a rivalry when I first started,” Dugan said. “This will be my last swim meet and I just want to have fun. It’s really not much of a competition between us now. We don’t care who gets first or second. The expectation is for both of us to get on the podium in the top four.”
Ritter won the All-City Diving Championship in the boys 15-18 age group last year, while Dugan finished third. Ritter has won two All-City diving titles in 12 years with Ridgewood, and was a state qualifier for the Wildcats two years ago as a freshman.
“We want everyone to have an experience they will remember forever,” Ritter said. “I have been waiting my whole life for the All-City meet to come to Ridgewood.”
Ben Stitgen, a two-time WIAA Division 2 state diving champion of Madison Edgewood, enters this year as the favorite from Seminole Pool. Stitgen is the All-City diving record holder in the 11-12 boys age group, and he won the title in the 13-14 age group last year. Another top contender is High Point’s Isaac Rousch, who finished 11th in the Division 1 state meet for Middleton last winter.
Each participant gets six dives. There are four preliminary dives and two in the finals. The top two dives are scored by a panel of judges. The six dives Ritter will perform July 30 are the double front double pike, front 2 1/2 tuck, invert dive tuck, reverse dive tuck, front 1 1/2 full twist and a reverse 1 1/2 twist.
“I’ve been working on stretching out as much as I can,” he said. “I think I can make the top six. “My goal for Ridgewood this summer is to focus on the fundamentals of diving and have fun. There is a lot of great competition. My goal for the high school season is to make it back to state.”
The signature dive for Dugan features a two-and-a-half somersault from a tuck position.
The top diving score for Dugan this summer is a 205 he scored at High Point. Like many divers, he has used a trampoline in practice to perfect trick dives and landings.
“You can do a lot more on a trampoline than you can a board,” he said.
Dugan’s first love, however, is tennis. He attended a tennis camp at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater tennis camp earlier this week, yet he has learned the self-discipline and work ethic from swimming carries over to the tennis court.
“They are both mental games,” Dugan said. “You have to be confident in yourself that you can do a dive. If you miss a ball in tennis, you have to shake it off and move on.”
Both Ritter and Dugan have hobbies away from the pool.
Ritter enjoys playing tennis and traveling, and he is certified as part of the National Stop the Bleed campaign. FEMA selected Ritter to serve as a member of the 2019-2020 Regional Youth Preparedness Council for FEMA Region V. Members are selected from a pool of candidates interested in helping better prepare their communities for an emergency through public service. Ritter will be tasked with completing an individual preparedness service project with the support of the council.
Alex’s father, Terry Ritter, the All-City Diving meet chairperson, spearheaded a fundraising campaign to raise money to put in two new one- meter diving boards at Ridgewood.
Alex said his father’s vision is for children to have fun in the summer.
“Diving has made me the person I am,” Alex Ritter said. “It’s not about the development of the diver, it’s about the development of a person into a diver.”
Dugan enjoys trout fishing, biking and playing video games. He will turn 18 on the first day of the All-City Diving meet.
“I’m used to the board at Ridgewood,” he said. “It will be an advantage for sure and it will be really exciting.”