BYU senior diver Emily Woods.
Kentucky native Emily Woods is a died-in-the-wool UK basketball fan.
Not knowing anything about BYU and little about Mormons – it was not even considered a possibility to come here for one Cougar.
The Lexington native, exercise science major, physician’s assistant school candidate, daughter of Jeff and Sheila Woods, youngest of three girls, the 5-foot-4 BYU senior diver Woods had her life drastically change in only a matter of a few years.
Woods grew up doing gymnastics from age four to age 11 when she quit because she wanted to try other things. After going to some soccer and basketball camps, she figured out that she should go back to gymnastics, but found diving instead – something she persisted at, no matter what.
“She decided that she wanted to start doing her flips into the water instead of onto a mat or into a foam pit,” said Woods’ mother, Sheila. “The first time she did a dive off of the 10-meter platform, she landed on her belly. She was bruised all over her body and got black eyes. The very next day she was back at practice.”
Sheila describes that experience as a defining moment in Woods’ life – a time when Sheila knew her daughter was going to make it as a collegiate athlete.
Finding her niche in diving, Woods became a four-time letterwinner at Lafayette High School, won state her senior year and competed at the summer and winter Nationals all four years of high school.
“Diving in high school was fun because we were always just playing around,” said Woods. “The coach just told us to practice whatever we wanted to. It wasn’t as serious as club diving.”
“She just works really hard and doesn’t give up,” said Sheila. “She keeps doing the dive over and over and over until she feels like it is better. She’s always trying to get a personal best. She never gives up, nor does she let little things get in her way.”
Reconnecting her junior year of high school with her boyfriend from seventh grade, Charles Krebs, she discovered something that would change her life and her future.
“Right before my junior year of high school we started hanging out again and I went to his birthday party or something,” said Woods. “He then started talking to me about The Book of Mormon and gave me a copy and I started reading it.”
Woods started meeting with missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was intrigued by their first lesson about Joseph Smith and the Plan of Happiness.
“When they were teaching me that first lesson I thought to myself, ‘Whoa! This is awesome!’” she said. “Looking back now, I can see that all the little things that happened in my life leading up to that moment fit together perfectly.”
Three weeks after the first lesson that Woods had with the missionaries, she was baptized into the LDS Church on Sept. 12, 2004 – a day that she describes as “really great.”
Before becoming a member of the LDS Church, Woods wanted to go to the East Coast for college – looking into the South Carolina schools. Although, after her baptism she thought a lot about attending BYU and Krebs encouraged her to do so as well.
“I thought about it and the more I looked at it, it seemed like the perfect place to be,” said Woods.
After BYU diving coach Keith Russell called Woods her senior year and later sent her a letter in December, she was ready to sign with BYU.
“Keith sent me this letter at Christmas-time with a quote from a prophet and that’s when I knew that BYU was the only place I was going to get something like that,” she said.
“Hopefully some of the things I say from the scriptures will have some meaning to them,” said Russell. “There is so much that you can learn from the scriptures about every facet of your life, even in diving.”
With only two years as a member of the church, Woods came to BYU to be surrounded by members of her faith.
“It was a culture shock, but in a good way,” she said. “I thought it was so awesome to be around so many people that had the same standards, I loved it. It was definitely different, but a really good experience.”
In her fourth and final year diving for the Cougars, Woods loves being surrounded by her teammates.
“I love our team,” Woods said. “The people that are on our team are amazing. Ava, Tawni, Brandon and Travis all came in my year and we grew up together diving here. It is really awesome to dive with people who are so hard working, they really motivate me.”
In addition to the team, Woods is grateful for having Russell as a coach who has always motivated her to be better and work harder.
“She is like most divers, in that she is very hard on herself,” said Russell, “but she goes after every dive. No holds barred. She’s great to work with because you know she’ll give it all she’s got, she’s very dependable.”
After diving for so many years, year round, Woods attributes her dedication to other things in life as something that sports have taught her.
“The thing I love about sports is that it is super motivating to be able to have your schedule planned out to have the time to go to practice and do everything else,” she said. “It also motivates me in the other facets of my life like my schoolwork, job and other things.”
With Mountain West Conference Championships on the horizon, Woods just wants to do what she knows she can do on each of the boards.
“Keith always says to us – to do what we know we can do,” Woods said. “I want to be able to stay focused, be confident and be able to hit my dives like I know I can – like I do in practice.”
She hopes to do well enough to final on both boards and to dive as well as she can at NCAA Zone Championships.
“When Emily leaves I will miss having a good time while still getting something done,” said Russell.
After her diving career is complete, Woods looks forward to graduating in exercise science and going on to physician’s assistant school back East with Krebs, her fianc.
Woods and Krebs became engaged on Dec. 22, 2009, and look forward to being married on May 29 in the Louisville, Kentucky LDS temple.
“Getting married is my biggest plan right now for the future,” said Woods. “I plan on going to PA school and hopefully I’ll end up being a mom and I will just go wherever I feel I need to go.”