Quartet of Knoch divers hope to make ripple at WPIALs

Friday, February 7, 2020 | 7:00 PM

Aryanna Napora set a goal at the beginning of her high school career to qualify for the PIAA Class AA diving championships all four years.

After earning trips to states as a freshman and sophomore with fourth- and sixth-place finishes, respectively, at the WPIALs, the Knoch diver placed eighth last year, falling just two places short of a trip to Bucknell.

“It was tough,” the senior said. “I am really hard on myself sometimes. When I didn’t make it last year, it was really hard to come back this season. But my coach (Ken Bedford) convinced me to finish out my career. He has coached me for 10 years. We just couldn’t see my high school career end without giving it one more try.”

That one more try has built into the potential for big things at WPIALs. Napora finds herself near the top of the WPIAL Class AA girls diving performance lists at WPIAL.org, and she will be among the favorites to earn one of the top six places necessary for a trip to states at the WPIAL finals Feb. 21 at South Park.

“She’s been pretty solid, pretty consistent with her dives,” Bedford said.

Napora will join Knoch’s other WPIAL qualifiers — junior Krystle Ekas and sophomores Kevin Golden and Justin Walls — at the regular-season finale Thursday against North Catholic at Butler. It will be one more opportunity before WPIALs for the quartet to work on their dives in a competitive setting.

While the vertigo issue that took several weeks of practice and meets from Napora last year remains, she said she and Bedford are in a better position to recognize the signs of when it is getting worse and how to deal with it in practice.

“If everything comes together and I perform the way I am capable, I think I will have good chance to qualify for states,” Napora said. “Anything’s possible. WPIALs should be very competitive again. A lot of the good divers in the WPIAL were underclassmen (last year), and they will be there.”

Golden, who qualified at Knoch’s Dec. 18 meet at Hampton, hopes his return to WPIALs results in an improved finish from last year’s 12th in his debut.

“Last year was definitely a cool experience, and it gave me sight to the future of what I can be,” he said. “My goal (at WPIALs) this year is to be consistent with my dives and, hopefully, beat my 12th from last year.”

Golden said while he knows the competition will be more than challenging, he is confident that with his best performance, he has a shot to crack the top six and qualify for states.

“I am glad I have that chance,” he said.

Ekas came close to qualifying for WPIALs last year, but she continued to work on her dives, including her degree of difficulty, and produced the necessary performance she was looking for. Her season-best point total of 182.70 came Jan. 13 in a tri-meet against Springdale and Central Valley.

“I didn’t think I was going to make it to WPIALs this year, possibly next year,” Ekas said. “But coach really pushed me to get better, and I’m really glad he did. I feel I’ve improved so much. I can’t wait to go to WPIALs, see how it is, and hopefully do my best.”

Ekas’ qualification with Napora gives Knoch at least two female divers at WPIALs for the fourth year in a row.

“I am so excited for Krystle,” Napora said. “She’s worked so hard to get to where she is. WPIALs is always more fun when you have a teammate there with you.”

Walls punched his ticket Monday in a meet against Butler.

“He was one of those who was ready to qualify but just hadn’t been able put a complete meet together,” Bedford said. “On his second-to-last meet, he finally did it. You could see the absolute relief.”

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


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