It was probably one of Danielle Cramer’s biggest decisions of her life, but she simply could not wait any longer to make it.
The Milton High senior swimmer had just taken a visit to the University of Minnesota and was at the airport to catch a flight back to Wisconsin.
“I left campus (Minnesota) about 7:30 a.m. on Saturday morning and I was committed by 9 a.m.,” Cramer said. “I was sitting at the airport, like, ‘I have to tell them.’ There’s no doubt in my mind. They need to know this is where I need to be.”
Cramer’s commitment to Minnesota was a “dream come true,” but the decision to join the Minnesota women’s swimming and diving team wasn’t one that was made in an hour and a half.
The Red Hawks standout wanted to be wearing the maroon and gold for nearly half a decade before her commitment.
Cramer competed in a club swim meet when she was 13 years old at Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center, where the University of Minnesota swim team competes, and she’s had her eye on the Twin Cities ever since.
“I got to walk campus a little bit that weekend and got to see the facilities,” Cramer said. “I fell in love with the area. I thought, ‘This is my dream school.’”
Cramer fulfilled her dream Sept. 14 when she announced her commitment to the University of Minnesota as a student-athlete.
It’s not all that surprising that Cramer finds herself at a Division I school like Minnesota, considering all the success she’s garnered in Milton.
Cramer has been to the WIAA state meet three times and holds a Milton pool record. She also holds pool records in the butterfly at Elkhorn and Monroe.
As a freshman at the WIAA Division 1 state meet, Cramer finished seventh in the 100-yard backstroke and 12th in the 100-yard butterfly.
In her second year, Cramer placed ninth in the backstroke and 15th in the butterfly.
Last year, Cramer ended on the podium in the backstroke with a fifth-place finish and took 15th in the 200-yard individual medley. She also helped the 400-yard freestyle relay team to a 22nd-place finish.
Cramer now has her sights set on a fourth trip to the University of Wisconsin Natatorium.
“It would mean everything,” Cramer said. “It was especially fun last year with the relay going with me; that was amazing. I loved having people on deck. I loved sharing that experience with them.
“I’m looking to repeat that this year.”
Whether or not Cramer will be joined this year by fellow Red Hawks or not, it looks like the senior standout is at least on track to make it back as an individual.
In the Red Hawks’ first meet of the season, Cramer set the Milton High pool record in the 100-yard butterfly, clocking in at 57.14 seconds. The time also reset her own school record in the event.
“I wasn’t really aware of it (pool record) as soon as it happened, but once I walked over to my teammates, they were all freaking out,” Cramer said.
Cramer has earned individual first-place finishes in the backstroke and butterfly 10 times this season. She’s raced in 10 such events.
So how has Cramer been able to go from a 13-year old with a dream, to a high school senior living out her dream?
For her, it was work ethic.
“I think I have learned the value of hard work and how everything pays off,” Cramer said. “I’ve been lifting weights and working out on dry land and so many doubles in the pool.”
“What impresses me most about Dani is her work ethic, and how goal-driven she is,” Milton head coach Lindsey Hassenfelt said.
Her training intensified once Cramer believed her goal of going Division I to Minnesota was in jeopardy.
“The end of my sophomore year, I strained my hip flexor. I was out for a little bit and my impending junior year was just looming in distance,” Cramer said. “I said, ‘OK, I need to really focus or I’m not going to reach my goals.’
“I needed to take my swimming to another level if I wanted to go DI. And I did. It all ended up paying off.”
And because Cramer was able to take it to another level, she will not only be going on to bigger and better things, but she’ll be likely etched into Red Hawks swimming lore forever.
That is saying a lot, considering she is part of a program that won back-to-back state titles in 2010 and 2011 and saw Bridgette Alexander, a current member of the U.S. National Swimming Team, come out of Milton.
“Milton swim has had their fair share of fast swimmers over the years, and I think Danielle ranks among the top,” Hassenfelt said. “She has all of the qualities of what Milton swimming has stood for. She is an amazing athlete, and I am so proud of her and I am even more excited to watch her swim next year for Minnesota.”