Fox Chapel’s Manelis, North Allegheny’s Shi clean up at PIAA Class AAA diving meet

Saturday, March 13, 2021 | 9:50 PM

The fourth time was the charm for Fox Chapel senior David Manelis.

The diving standout and two-time WPIAL Class AAA champion hoped to add state gold medalist to his performance portfolio as he took on a field of seven others Saturday evening at Cumberland Valley High School.

Manelis grabbed the lead after the sixth dive of 11 and never trailed after that. He finished with 535.30 points and outscored runner-up Conor Geising, a junior from Abington, by 24.40 points.

“It feels great,” said Manelis, who came into the meet as the top seed. “I do feel a little sad though because it’s my last high school meet.”

Manelis’ title made it two in a row for the WPIAL on Saturday. North Allegheny sophomore Christina Shi captured the Class AAA girls state title about three hours earlier.

North Catholic sophomore Maggie Foley and South Park senior Cole O’Connor represented the WPIAL in the Class AA meets and took second and third, respectively.

Manelis is the first Fox Chapel state champion in diving and is the first from the WPIAL to win the Class AAA boys crown since Penn-Trafford’s Joe Ference did it as a junior and senior in 2015 and 2016.

“I just took it the same way as WPIALs,” Manelis said. “I focused on all of my dives and executed the way I had hoped.”

Manelis and Gesing (510.90) were the only two divers to finish with scores above 500 points in any of the four meets.

“It was thrilling to see him win it,” Fox Chapel coach Vernon Yenick said. “I’ve had several kids in past state meets nearly win it and take seconds. To see him take the lead and keep it was awesome. He was in a good position because his best dives were his last ones. Today’s list of dives, I’ve seen him do them all better before, but he was just very consistent all the way through and got all of the points he needed.”

Manelis’ title comes after PIAA finishes of 10th as a freshman, second as a sophomore and third last year behind Emmaus grad Brendan McCourt, a freshman at the University of Texas, and Gesing.

Because of covid capacity limitations, the PIAA moved the swimming and diving competitions from Bucknell University to Cumberland Valley and limited the diving competitions to district champions.

Under the normal format, only the divers who made the finals would have the opportunity to execute the full 11 dives. This year, every competitor dove 11 times.

In addition to the Class AAA boys field of eight divers, Class AAA girls had seven compete. Class AA boys and girls each had eight competitors.

Shi, who won her second straight WPIAL title Feb. 27, defended her No. 1 seed and rose from fifth place in her PIAA debut last year.

“It’s exciting,” Shi said. “This year was obviously different due to covid. I just wish (NA teammates) Maya (Ennis), Zoe (Ky) and Will (Schenk) could’ve been here. But I am very lucky and grateful to be here.”

Shi fended off the challenge of runner-up Abby O’Leary, a senior from Northeastern in District 3, who finished with an 11-dive total of 425.85.

“My hardest dives were the last three and executing them well helped with confidence,” Shi said. “The whole meet, I was thinking of the last round, and that helped me get through it.”

O’Leary captured the District 3 title with a 385.05 point total and entered the competition as the No. 6 seed. The veteran competed at states for the fourth time, just missing a medal in ninth last year.

“It was a slow start, and it took the judges a couple of rounds to settle into their scores,” North Allegheny diving coach Patti McClure said. “Christina did really well, and she dove with confidence. Her warm-up was a little slow in that she wasn’t jumping off the board real well, but she fixed it all in the meet. All of her diving was right on.”

O’Connor and Foley were not able to dive at states last year as the PIAA canceled the Class AA swimming and diving championships as the covid pandemic started to take hold.

But both were in the thick of things Saturday at Cumberland Valley.

Foley, now a two-time WPIAL champion, came into Saturday morning’s 11-dive competition as the No. 2 seed (441.05 points). She maintained that standing and collected 397.25 points for the silver medal.

Marple Newtown junior Alexandra Pastris, the District 1 champion and the No. 1 seed, captured her first state title with a total of 412.10 points.

Pastris was eighth in the Class AAA meet in 2019.

O’Connor returned to states — he made the finals as a freshman (16th overall) and a sophomore (15th) — and finished third overall with a total of 328.20 points.

O’Connor came in tied for the No. 3 seed after claiming the WPIAL title with 404.80 points and edging out Quaker Valley’s Simon Iwanokiw and Hampton’s Koda Carslaw.

Upper Moreland (District 1) junior Brandon Bush won his first state title with 396.35 points.

Susquehannock (District 3) junior Max Pflieger, who entered the meet tied with O’Connor as the No. 3 seed, finished with the silver medal and 376.65 points.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at or via Twitter .

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