Derry divers being coached by program’s last medalist

Sunday, February 11, 2018 | 7:30 PM

The Derry girls swimming and diving team expects to have a top finisher at the WPIAL Class AA diving championship meet Feb. 23 at South Park.

Freshman Alison Cowan (205.45 points) ranks sixth in the WPIAL in the 1-meter event for six dives.

In an interesting twist, guiding her is the last Trojans diver to reach the final.

Morgan Elrick — the 2016 WPIAL Class AA bronze medalist — is in her first year as Derry diving coach.

“We are working on increasing the difficulty of her dives and fine-tuning the dives she already has,” Elrick said. “I expect she will do well at WPIALs and hopefully qualify for states.”

The top six finishers advance to the PIAA championships in March at Bucknell.

Elrick said Cowan is not afraid to try new dives.

Like Elrick before her, Cowan competes in gymnastics, which Elrick said makes her easy to work with.

“I know the strengths of a gymnast,” Elrick said. “We can use those strengths and make them come out on the diving board.”

Derry swimming coach Jeff Kelly said Cowan reminds him of Elrick.

Trish Brownlee has mentored Cowan at the Derry Flip and Twist Diving Club since sixth grade.

“In the last year, she has made tremendous strides in increasing her degree-of-difficulty dives, as well as cleaning up the tops and entries,” Brownlee said. “Her background as a (high-level) gymnast has helped her get where she is.”

Cowan placed seventh at the Westmoreland County Coaches Association championship in January, missing a medal by one place. She said competing there showed her what WPIALs will be like.

Cowan was one of two Trojans to qualify for the WPIAL championship. Senior Riley Watson (182.55) ranks 14th in the WPIAL and also qualified.

Watson said she is ecstatic to make the meet for the first time.

Elrick said it happened after three years of hard work.

“(Watson) makes the extra effort at practice to fine-tune her skills, as well as learn new dives,” Elrick said.

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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