Growing up, Michelle and Adrianna Schlossmacher Smith did pretty much everything together, as twins are inclined to do. The Roseville sisters played basketball and lacrosse and swam, first as synchronized swimmers, then as divers. Diving resonated with the girls because it provided a mix of spotlight and thrills.
“There’s a fear piece to diving that challenges you,” Michelle said. “It helps in life. It makes it easier to put your fears aside.”
Now sophomores at Roseville High School, the fraternal twins are similar but not identical, both in demeanor and physical skills. Michelle, the stronger of the two, developed faster as a diver, taking part in more advanced groups.
“Her strength is her work ethic and drive,” coach Bob Andresen said. “She doesn’t have many bad days.”
Michelle finished fifth in the Class 2A state meet in 2014 as a freshman and goes into this year’s state meet, which runs Wednesday through Friday at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center on the University of Minnesota campus, as one of the favorites. Her 11-dive score of 498.95 at last week’s Section 4 meet was the best reported section score.
Adrianna — who goes by Adrie — will be there, too. Not, however, the way she once envisioned.
It was “Twist Day” at a diving camp at St. Olaf College in June of 2014, when divers practice complicated twists in their dives. Adrie made her first try at a front 1½ full dive. As she spun toward the water, she failed to get her hands in front of her face in time and smacked her forehead against the water.
“I came up and things were black and everything was spinning,” she said. “But the coach was yelling to do it again because I was so close and I was kind of excited because I was close. So I did.”
Same dive, same result.
The effects wore off the next day. A month later, however, they came back with a vengeance. At a diving camp at the University of Wyoming, Adrie experienced a severe headache, nausea and a loss of balance and vision.
Doctors there thought maybe it was triggered by the elevation in Laramie, more than 7,000 feet above sea level.
“I’m a nurse, so I know not to mess with concussions,” said Kathy Schlossmacher, the girls’ mother, who works at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis. “This was not just a concussion. This was something bigger.”
When she returned home, Adrie’s vision was reduced to about 6 inches in front of her. She had trouble walking. Her memory failed her.
“Someone would ask me to do two things and I’d do one but forget what the second one was,” she said. She underwent surgery at Children’s Hospital for what was being referred to as a traumatic brain injury. Her recovery has been slow. She still has trouble seeing and persistent headaches. She knows she will never dive again.
“You hear about people getting concussions and going back out a week later. For me, it’s been 16 months and I’m still having problems,” she said. “It’s been hard for people to understand.”
Michelle said for a while, at least, she had a hard time accepting what had happened to her sister.
“I always thought she’d come back,” Michelle said. “It was last year, right around the state meet, when we found out she’d never dive again, never do sports again. That was a hard one to take.”
Wanting to stay close to her sister and the Roseville swimming team, she’s now a team manager. And Michelle’s biggest fan.
“If she won, it would be the biggest thing ever,” Adrie said. “I would be so happy.”
What Adrie has gone through has motivated Michelle. Already one of the state’s top divers, Michelle steps up on the board with her sister in mind.
“It’s been a family ordeal,” Michelle said. “I feel like, if I do this, I’m doing it not just for me or for her, but for my whole family.”