Blount Press Row

The Minser Sisters

Former Maryville duo made history, each in own way

By Stefan Cooper
Editor
Blount Press Row

You can too win them all.

Bethany Minser Love, a history making diver at Maryville in the late 1990s, takes in the greenway with husband

Bethany Minser Love, a history making diver at Maryville in the late 1990s, takes in the greenway with husband, Chad, and sons, Grayson, left, and Spencer.

Bethany Minser Love is proof.

The former Maryville Lady Rebel won four consecutive state diving championships on the 1-meter springboard in the mid 1990s.

Five others in the 47-year history of the sport at the high school level in Tennessee got as far as the three-peat.

Only Love, who set a state record for scoring in her final meet in 1998, could get the fourth.

Imagine being the kid sister who has to compete with that.

“It was a hard act to follow,” Karen Minser, Love’s mom, said. “Kate was determined, probably about the sixth grade, to go and find her own thing.”

Photographs of Love and Kate Minser Briskie now sit next to each other in the trophy case of Maryville state champions in the lobby of the school’s gymnasium. Taken together, they tell the story of two sisters who both found their own thing, each in their own way.

Love, now a teacher with Maryville City Schools, was that kid who could do it all growing up. She excelled at gymnastics. In middle school, she ran track. In high school, she played the French horn in the band. In the classroom, she got straight As.

Love swam in her first competitive meet for the Maryville/Alcoa Flying Dolphins before she was old enough to be on the team.

“I had to lie about my age for my first meet,” she said. “Anytime we’d have a team practice at Springbrook (Pool), I’d go do flips off the board.”

It was diving full-time by high school. With the Lady Vols’ Dave Parrington as her coach, Love won her first two state crowns in dominant fashion and looked only to be getting better. That’s when the state’s all-time most successful high school diver hit a crossroads.

“Summer before junior year, I was done,” Love said. “I was just so exhausted. I was doing so many things.”

She considered quitting band to free up more time for diving, she said. Parrington, she said, advised against it.

“Dave was great at not pushing us too hard,” she said. “He said, ‘So do that; (stay in the band).’”

The still unequaled four-peat taught her much, much more than simply diving, the now wife and mother of two said.

“I think you gain some confidence in who you are,” Love said.

When things got tough during a collegiate diving career at Tennessee, that approach made all the difference.

“In college, when I got up there with the big dogs, I learned that failure doesn’t kill you,” Love said. “Sports aren’t about the sport.”

The wife of Chad Love and mom to Grayson, 7, and Spencer, 4, talks with genuinely humility about her history-making high school career. When it comes to what Kate would accomplish two years later, she stops short – and wipes a tear.

History-making pole vaulter Kate Minser

History-making pole vaulter Kate Minser Briskie enjoys the holidays with husband, Matt, and sons, Elijah, 2, and Levi.

“She’s always been a little bit more of a faucet,” Briskie quipped.

As Karen Minser made mention, Briskie began the search for her own star early. She was every bit the precocious athlete Love had been, even more so in many respects.

“In college, she was doing so much lifting she could come home and bench me,” Love said.

In stark contrast to the self-assured, champion athlete she became, “Kate was shy as a kid,” Karen Minser said. “Bethany was good at everything, and, in her (Kate’s mind), (Kate) wasn’t. We just kept telling her whatever she put her mind to, she could be successful.”

Where Love had extraordinary agility and body control – thanks, in no small part, to gymnastics, she said — Briskie had prototype Division I size and power. She lettered in basketball, soccer and track and field at Maryville. Her beginnings on the track didn’t go so well.

As an 11-year-old, Briskie, intimidated by the other runners, asked to be withdrawn from an 800-meter race at a summer AAU meet minutes before the start.

“I told my husband (Billy), ‘Just let her learn,’” Karen said.

Briskie would never again back down from a challenge.

“She said, ‘That’ll never happen again,’” Karen said, “and she kind of went from there.”

The summer prior to Briskie’s senior year at Maryville, the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association sanctioned the pole vault for girls’ track and field for the first time. Briskie, already one of the Lady Rebels’ best high jumpers, was game.

A longtime member of the Knoxville Track Club, she enlisted Olympian, former Tennessee Vol and KTC instructor Tim Mack as her coach. Over the summer and fall, she mastered the discipline.

At the 2000 state meet, Briskie made it happen.

“It was great,” Karen Minser said. “I was really proud of her. She’d worked really, really hard.”

Love was working as a counselor at Wesley Woods, a local youth camp, at the time. When Kate’s name hit the papers that morning, she tore out of the cabin to announce the news.

“I said, ‘Everybody! Everybody! This is my sister. She just won state!’” Love said.

Briskie didn’t just win the first girls’ pole vault in Tennessee high school track and field. She won impressively, her winning vault of 9 feet securing a scholarship to Appalachian State, where she met her husband, Matt.

The couple resides in Lake Placid, New York, site of the 1980 Winter Olympics. Kate gave birth to their second son, Levi, in December. Older brother Elijah is 2.

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