Gateway: Sports

Peninsula High coaches construct touching memorial for late diving coach Litsch

Former Peninsula High school dive team coach Liz Litsch lost her battle with cancer in September. Her chair and desk that accompanied her to meets and regular practices were being prepared for permanent memorial display at the school’s pool, where she coached for 29 years after having been a team member herself years ago. New dive coach Rob Nichols, left, and swim team coach Craig Brown will continue on with the good work that Litsch had established over her years.
Former Peninsula High school dive team coach Liz Litsch lost her battle with cancer in September. Her chair and desk that accompanied her to meets and regular practices were being prepared for permanent memorial display at the school’s pool, where she coached for 29 years after having been a team member herself years ago. New dive coach Rob Nichols, left, and swim team coach Craig Brown will continue on with the good work that Litsch had established over her years. Staff photographer

Swim team members and assistant coaches tried desperately to give Liz Litsch newer, more comfortable chairs on multiple occasions.

But the late Peninsula High diving coach would always go back to sitting on her old, rickety table, watching her divers and giving instructions on technique and form. The table finally gave out last year when one of the legs broke.

“I’m kind of one of those hoarders, so I put it upstairs in storage,” said longtime Peninsula swim coach Craig Brown. “When she finally retired, I was going to give it to her as a gag gift.”

But then Litsch’s health took a turn for the worse — she was diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer during the summer. Litsch passed away on Sept. 16. But before she passed away, Brown came up with an idea: Re-purpose the old table to make a memorial for Litsch.

So with some help from the school’s wood shop, Brown broke down the table and made a frame from it. The memorial now sits near the diving boards at Peninsula High School.

“Even though she was gone, I wanted Liz to still be part of the program,” Brown said. “I want her to always be looking at the diving board, whether she’s here or not. That made her really happy before she passed away.”

The torch has been passed down. Forty-four-year-old Rob Nichols, who dove for Litsch at Peninsula during her first year as a coach, is now the diving coach for Peninsula and Gig Harbor. When Litsch phoned Nichols and asked him to take the program over, Nichols couldn’t say no.

“It was sort of immediately clear diving was going to be the sport for me,” Nichols said. “Not because I showed a lot of talent, but just because of how she introduced us to it early. Diving there just became what I did. That was the focus of my high school (career).”

Nichols had average grades in high school, but got into Central Washington University because of diving.

“I took off academically once I got there,” Nichols said. “I graduated with honors. I have to give Liz a lot of credit for getting the rest of my life sort of worked out.”

Not to mention Nichols met his wife, Hayley, at the pool. On the night of Litsch’s death, Rob and Hayley were putting the finishing touches on the memorial for Litsch.

“It was a rough night, but it was a good night to work on something like that,” Nichols said. “It turned out really well and came together well. I know Craig (Brown) is really proud of it. I think it’s important. It shows people where this diving program came from.”

Jon Manley: 253-358-4151

jon.manley@gateline.com

@gateway_jon

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