Connellsville diver chasing spot on WPIAL medal stand
Connellsville junior Luke Kisiel was not a diver from an early age. In fact, he wasn't introduced to the sport until a few years ago.
“One day I was on the trampoline with (Connellsville graduate and former diver) Kait Nedrow, and I just started doing flips,” Kisiel said.
Connellsville dive coach Tammy Nedrow noticed Kisiel's ability to do flips and turns in the air, and suggested he try out diving.
“He has a lot of natural ability,” Tammy Nedrow said.
Kisiel's natural ability has complemented his strong work ethic, and for the second straight season, he will compete in the WPIAL Class AAA diving championships.
This year's competition will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at North Allegheny.
“To be honest, my goal since the beginning of the year is to increase my points and do that each year,” Kisiel said. “If I medal, that's great. If I don't, I still have next year.”
Kisiel qualified for WPIALs with a 211-point performance in a meet earlier this season. He enters WPIALs as the ninth seed in Class AAA. The top six finishers will be on the medal podium and will advance to the PIAA Class AAA championships March 12-15 at Bucknell University.
“I would love to podium,” Kisiel said. “The top six go to states and if I can perform, I'm pretty sure I can be up there. But I don't want to put that in my mind. I just want to stay calm.”
Kisiel is hoping that his experience at WPIALs last season will serve him well this time around. He noted that aside from former Connellsville teammate Kait Nedrow, he was unfamiliar with the other athletes at the competition.
“There's no reason to be nervous,” Kisiel said. “When I started meeting people there last year, they were very nice. It's a friendly competition and it's always nice to see people do new and insanely difficult dives.”
To medal at WPIALs, Kisiel will have to survive three rounds of competition. In the first round, each competitor will get five dives.
In Round 2, the dives are decreased to three per competitor. Those who advance through the first two rounds will get three more dives in the third round to determine their medal standing.
Kisiel likely will rely on a back one-and-a-half somersault and a forward one and a half somersault to help carry him through.
Despite his high seeding, Kisiel is making sure not to put too much pressure on himself, and according to Tammy Nedrow, that's his best strategy.
“His chances of getting to the podium are very good,” Tammy Nedrow said. “He's increased his level of difficulty and he's got a year of experience behind him. I'm confident that if he keeps calm, he will do well.”
Tammy Nedrow noted that Kisiel consistently has practiced for two hours in the evening four nights a week and does a weekend practice session as well.
Now, it's time to let all the hard work pay dividends.
“He just has to let his natural ability shine through,” Tammy Nedrow said.
Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.