Mohawk, South Fayette divers win WPIAL Class AA titles
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Once McKenzie Stelter finished her 11th and final dive at the WPIAL Class AA finals, she climbed out of the pool and realized her score of 43.20 was enough to move her into first place.
Then the Mohawk junior spent an excruciating few minutes waiting for Moon's Heather Lonkert to step on the board at South Park High School and complete her repertoire.
“It was really, really rough,” Stelter said. “I would like to go first in that situation to put the pressure on her, but it was just the luck of the draw, I guess.”
Lonkert executed her reverse one-and-a-half somersault, but her 38.85 points on the 2.1 degree of difficulty dive wasn't enough to reclaim the lead as Stelter became the first Mohawk diver to win a WPIAL Class AA title. Stelter, whose reverse one somersault with one-and-a-half twists has a degree of difficulty of 2.4, finished with 419.85 points, while Lonkert came in second with 417.65.
“It was so stressful,” Stelter said. “I looked up at the board after Heather did her 10th dive, and I knew it was really tight. I knew coming in that Heather was my competition, and I knew I had to my best on that dive.”
Stelter finished third last season behind champion Maria Lohman of Chartiers Valley and Katie Dunst of Trinity, but neither was at the Class AA meet this year. Biennial realignment pushed Chartiers Valley and Lohman, a sophomore, into Saturday's Class AAA finals at North Allegheny, while Dunst graduated.
Lonkert, who finished third in Class AAA in 2012, had a score of 378.80 after 10 dives and led Stelter by 2.15 heading into the final round.
“It just came down to the degree of difficulty,” Lonkert said.
Close calls are nothing new to Stephen Zombek, who went into his final dive in the Class AA boys finals with a lot on his mind. Not only did he have to concentrate on a back dive with a somersault and two-and-a-half twists with a 2.7 degree of difficulty, he had to put the memory of the 2012 finals out of his mind.
It didn't help that Beaver's Micah Ringer was only 9.85 points behind with a dive remaining. Even after he finished and opened a 49-point lead, he couldn't relax.
“I was definitely worried that maybe he would get straight 7.5s and maybe pass me up,” Zombek said.
Ringer scored 38.40 points on a forward dive with two-and-a-half somersaults, which gave the South Fayette junior the school's first WPIAL Class AA diving title with a final score of 353.25.
“I had a really bad meet compared to how I've done throughout the season,” Zombek said. “Half my dives were off, but my twisters saved me, so it helped to know that back twister was there at the end.”
Ringer, who finished fifth in 2012, outscored Zombek in rounds nine and 10, but could not close the deficit.
“It was my last dive, and I knew I'd have to hit it to be able to have a chance,” Ringer said. “I did what I was taught to do, I hit it, I just didn't win.”
In 2012, Zombek had a failed dive in the eighth round that eventually cost him a title in one of the most competitive finals in recent history. South Park's Billy Rountree — who opted against defending his title this season — won the championship with a 301.60 final score. Zombeck was second at 301.45.
“This means everything in the world,” Zombek said. “Going into this year I decided that I didn't want to regret anything and I had a lot of motivation from last year.”
The top nine finishers in the WPIAL Class AA finals advance to the PIAA meet at Bucknell University's Kinney Natatorium on March 13-14.
Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @KBarnes_Trib.
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