Quaker Valley diver has come a long way during high school career
After missing part of last season with a head injury, Quaker Valley diver Haley Ashner is determined to excel.
For the third consecutive year, Ashner, a senior, has qualified for the WPIAL Class AA championship, to be held Feb. 22 at South Park.
After finishing 15th a year ago, she looks forward to a top-10 finish and a berth at the state championship, to be held next month at Bucknell University.
Ashner missed the first half of last season with a concussion she sustained while playing soccer.
“It was eye-opening,” she said. “I wasn't used to being away from diving for such a long time.”
With her career shortened by injury and inexperience, Ashner has done remarkably well, said Quaker Valley diving coach Lydia Holley, noting that Ashner, a first-time diver, also did not compete much as a freshman.
In her 10th year at Quaker Valley, Holley considers Ashner the best diver she has coached.
“Unlike some high school divers, Haley joined us without a lot of gymnastics training,” Holley said. “In a way, that's been an asset.
“In doing their routines, gymnasts are taught to stay far away from the equipment; they approach the diving board the same way.
“Haley doesn't lean and isn't scared; she has a concept of what she wants.
“She rides the board and gets lift off it. She puts a lot of strength into her dives.”
Holley said Ashner is an ideal role model for first-year divers Brooke Sommers, Barbara De Mayo Silva and Dominic Crivelli, the lone boys competitor.
“They notice how far she has come,” Holley said.
Ashner enjoys working with novices.
“If I see them doing something wrong, I'll make suggestions,” she said. “Because I'm (the most experienced) diver, I feel the responsibility to take them under my wing.”
Ashner is co-captain of the Quakers swimming and diving team, a rarity for a diver, said Quaker Valley swimming coach Sue Morgan, adding that most captains are swimmers.
“She would make a good coach,” Morgan said. “She's very focused and strong-minded.
“She expects a lot out of her teammates.”
“Haley is like my assistant,” Holley said. “In my absence, she takes charge.”
Ashner, 17, has applied to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. She also is considering trying out for the team at the University of Pittsburgh, where for the past few months she has been part of a scholastic program sponsored by the Pitt Aquatic Club.
She is one of two Quaker Valley divers who have qualified for the WPIAL championship. Junior Olivia Ragoowansi also will compete.
Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.