EF diver Vasko emerges as favorite at WPIAL diving championships
By Keith Barnes
Published: Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013, 12:41 a.m.
In 2012, Josh Vasko showed just how good a diver he can be when he had absolutely no expectations.
This year, the Elizabeth Forward senior will head into the WPIAL Class AA championships Friday at South Park as one of the favorites to win.
“Last year, qualifying was a big goal because I had just missed the year before by, like, 0.1,” Vasko said. “Coming so close to winning last year with a low difficulty on my dives, I just had to amp it up, and I feel I have a better chance this year of taking the championship.”
To qualify for the WPIAL Class AA finals, a competitor must get a total six-dive score of at least 150 points in any sanctioned meet. Of the 13 divers who made it to the 11-dive finals in 2012, Vasko was next-to-last with 160.80.
It's also what made his performance on the board so extraordinary. Vasko not only moved up from his seed, he nearly won the WPIAL title; he finished third behind sophomores Billy Rountree of South Park and Stephen Zombek of South Fayette with a score of 300.15. Rountree finished with 301.60, and Zombek was 0.15 of a point behind.
“He is a meet diver,” Elizabeth Forward coach Tammy Blackwood said. “He's one of those kids that could flub every dive in warm-up, but when he gets up there, he's a pressure diver and he does really well when he needs to. He has confidence every time he steps on the board.”
Vasko, though, couldn't repeat the feat at the PIAA Class AA championships at Bucknell. He finished a disappointing 17th and failed to make it through the eight-dive cut.
After his solid showing the WPIAL finals, though, Vasko took it upon himself to not only improve his technique, but he elevated the degree of difficulty in his optional dives — his top end has moved from a 2.2 to a 2.8 — with the hope he could increase his overall score at bigger meets.
So far, it has worked. He defeated Zombek at the South Park Holiday Invitational Meet earlier in the season, and in an interesting quirk, he won't have to worry about dealing with a defending champion competing in his home pool. Rountree opted against competing this season for undisclosed reasons, which opens the door for Zombek, Vasko and 2012 fourth-place finisher Dewey Fry of Blackhawk to battle and become the 11th different diver since 1996 to win the title.
Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @KBarnes_Trib.
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