Frankling Regional, P-T divers prepared to compete for WPIAL honors
While the swimmers still have a week to prepare, the WPIAL's best divers will battle for the first medals from the pool this weekend.
Seven local divers will compete in the WPIAL Class AAA Diving Championships, which begin with the boys competition at 10 a.m. on Saturday at North Allegheny High School. The girls are scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. or one hour after the conclusion of the boys competition.
Franklin Regional will send four divers to the competition, led by freshman and Westmoreland County champion Andrew Sederholm. Another freshman, Kevin Schon, will dive for FR's boys, while two-time WPIAL qualifying junior Rena Gerber and senior Courtney Starrett will dive for the girls team.
Penn-Trafford will send senior Paul Stock, last year's 15th-place finisher at WPIALs and the county runner-up, along with two first-time qualifiers — sophomore Mike Bertoni and freshman Joey Ference — to the boys competition. The Warriors do not have any girls divers qualified.
After a 1-2 finish at the county championships, Sederholm and Stock are the two divers with the best chance of reaching the medal stand at North Allegheny and scoring points for their team in the combined swimming and diving score.
“As (Sederholm) is going, he should make it to states,” Franklin Regional diving coach Frank Nelson said. “I don't want to put too much pressure on him, but the scores he's putting up should place him (in the top six).”
“Paul would have to dive real well to get there, but you never know what other people are going to do,” Penn-Trafford coach Mark Martini said. “He's not seeded really high, but I think if he dives well, he'll place well.”
Stock has the benefit of experience at the WPIAL meet and of going to the county meet all four years, which means he has gone through many 11-dive competitions in the past. Though he recently missed some practice time while out of town, Martini said, Stock's experience should help him at WPIALs.
“He was very nervous last year, and this year, he's already told me he's not nearly as nervous,” Martini said. “He's not really worried about it too much, and he's just trying to get prepared.”
Sederholm doesn't have the benefit of previous WPIAL experience, but after his success at the county championships, he seems to be comfortable with most of the dives on his 11-dive slate.
“His twisting dives still need some work, but he's ready,” Nelson said. “Granted, he's not been involved in any competition of this magnitude, but when it comes down to it, it's just another diving meet.”
As for the other boys competing, Bertoni placed fifth at the county meet, and Schon placed ninth. Ference did not compete because schools are limited to two entries each, which makes WPIALs his first chance at an 11-dive meet.
But with all three being first-year varsity divers — Bertoni began as a swimmer his freshman year — the experience of going to WPIALs at an early age might be just as important as where they place.
“I told our guys if they can get into the semifinals, that's great,” Martini said. “If they make the finals, that's all gravy from there.
“I think the young guys don't really have an idea of what to expect. I've been there 20-plus years now and try to tell them, but it's not the same as actually being there.”
Franklin Regional's two girls finished side-by-side in the county meet, with Starrett in fourth and Gerber in fifth. Gerber placed 28th at last year's WPIAL meet, and for both divers, advancing to the semifinal round for the top 20 would be an accomplishment against the larger field.
“It's the bigger stage, and it all depends on how they handle the pressure,” Nelson said.
No matter the outcome, the FR coach said, it's important for all of the competitors to remember that a finish near the bottom of the field at the finals still isn't a failure.
“I think in this year's meet it's 30 boys and 24 girls. I told our kids, you're already in the top 30 or 24 of all of the WPIAL just by getting here, so that's an accomplishment right there,” Nelson said. “A lot of kids don't qualify, so to make it this far is another feather in their cap.”
Three of the top four girls from last year's WPIAL meet were juniors — Bethel Park's Ashley Sams, Moon's Heather Lonkert and Pine-Richland's Tiana Broen — and they will be favored to be atop the leaderboard again.
The clear favorite in the boys competition is Pine-Richland senior Dominic Giordano, who last year won with a meet record score of 544.50.
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.