Fox Chapel quartet ready to perform at WPIAL diving championships
Thursday, February 21, 2019 | 8:12 PM
For the second year in a row, Fox Chapel will have four athletes compete at the WPIAL Class AAA boys diving championships at North Allegheny High School.
Senior Jonah Cagley is gunning for a third straight WPIAL crown Saturday afternoon, and sophomore David Manelis, third last year in his first WPIAL appearance, also hopes to challenge for the WPIAL title.
Senior Magnus Loeffler will make his fourth WPIAL appearance in as many seasons, and sophomore Aidan Ireland competes at WPIALs for the first time.
“It’s such a thrill to wake up that day and know (WPIALs) is finally here after a whole season of training for it,” said Loeffler, ninth at WPIALs the past two years after taking 12th as a freshman.
“I know we all are ready to shine. For me, it’s my final WPIAL meet, and there is some pressure. But I know I have a lot of people supporting me, including my teammates.”
Cagley understands he again is the hunted, and he relishes the opportunity to defend his title.
“The competition always pushes me to execute my dives as best as possible,” said Cagley, who took some time off this season while battling through a back injury and a fractured sternum.
Cagley, the WPIAL runner-up as a freshman, has recovered from the physical maladies, and he said he is confident heading to WPIALs.
“To have four guys at WPIALs again, it shows just how much the program has improved, and it’s pretty exciting,” Cagley said.
Manelis, who also has competed nationally through USA Diving, was happy with his bronze medal at WPIALs last year, but he knows there is room for improvement this time around.
“I know what to expect and what it takes to challenge for the title,” Manelis said. “It won’t be easy with Jonah there and others wanting the same thing.”
Mt. Lebanon senior Owen Johns, last year’s Class AAA runner-up, is back to challenge for the championship. Penn-Trafford senior Logan Sherwin, sixth at WPIALs last year, is seeded third behind Cagley and Johns. Manelis is fourth.
Four is the limit any school can send to WPIALs. Ireland qualified last year, but he was ranked fifth on the team and was not able to compete. He’s there this year as the 13th seed, and he said he’s ready to show what he can do.
“I just kept working on my dives to get better and be ready,” Ireland said. “It’s my first WPIAL meet, so I am really excited to see how I compare.”
The Class AA championship meet kicks everything off Friday at South Park High School. The 11-dive event starts with the girls competition at 11 a.m. followed by the girls at 2:30 p.m.
The top six boys and girls finishers will advance to the PIAA championships March 13 and 14 at Bucknell.
Class AAA takes center stage Saturday at North Allegheny as the girls compete at 10 a.m. The boys begin at 2:30 p.m. with the top five from each advancing to states March 15 and 16.
Knoch junior Aryanna Napora hopes to make it to states for the third time in as many seasons. She placed fourth at WPIALs last year and added a 16th at states.
Napora has dealt with a form of vertigo throughout the season. She missed a couple weeks of training and one meet. Despite that, she said she is feeling good heading into Friday’s event.
“I’m not trying to set my expectations too high, but the ultimate goal is states, and I feel I have a good chance to get there,” Napora said.
Knoch coach Ken Bedford said Napora is looking strong and focused.
“That whole vertigo thing, we’ve kind of accepted it. There’s nothing we can do about it,” Bedford said. “We’re just dealing with it now. We just have to look forward.”
Napora achieved a season-best score of 209.40 against Northgate on Feb. 12 which places her as the No. 6 seed.
“She is consistent enough that I definitely feel she can be in the top six and make it to states again,” Bedford said.
Senior Kristin Jerich is right behind Napora as the eighth seed. She scored a season-high 2o2.60 late in the regular season.
Jerich, who has has battled through shoulder issues, hopes to improve on last year’s fifth-place WPIAL finish. She went on to take 11th in her first appearance at states.
“Kristin’s looking really strong right now,” Bedford said. “She is really confident in her dives. I am optimistic about both Kristen and Aryanna.”
While Jerich and Napora have that WPIAL and PIAA experience, Knights freshman Kevin Golden will get his first championship opportunity Friday. He is positioned as the No. 15 seed.
“We won’t know until Friday how he will handle it, but he seems pretty confident and relaxed,” Bedford said.
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .