Seneca Valley senior goes out on top with PIAA diving gold

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Wednesday, March 13, 2024 | 5:10 PM


Seneca Valley senior Isaiah Clerkley ended his high school diving career on the highest of high notes.

The Penn State commit finished the 11-dive PIAA Class 3A championship meet Wednesday afternoon at Bucknell University’s Kinney Natatorium with 570.40 points, roughly 80 points clear of the field, including runner up Alex Wodehouse from Governor Mifflin.

“This feels great,” Clerkley said. “This was one of my big goals this year, to get back here with a chance to win it. For it to finally happen, it’s an amazing feeling.”

Clerkley took the top spot after finishing runner-up last year to North Penn’s Brady Stanton.

“I was a little upset because last year was such a close meet,” he said. “I did my best last year, and coming into this year, I knew I had to work harder and do harder dives.”

Clerkley was hoping to face Stanton again, but Stanton suffered a shoulder injury earlier this year and wasn’t able to compete in the District 1 championship meet.

“That was a bummer,” he said. “Brady is a great diver, and it would’ve been awesome to see how we would’ve faced off against each other.”

Clerkley moved up the ladder each of the past two years after taking 15th in his PIAA debut as a sophomore in 2022.

He was in first place after his first five dives. His 269.85 points were 62 clear of the field.

His final dive of the second round, the eighth of the meet overall, was a lower-scoring one than he had hoped. But he still led by 43.05 points over Wodehouse (337.25).

Clerkley turned it on in the finals, scoring 180 points in the final three dives to pull away. He hit a 2.6 degree of difficulty last dive to score 65 points and seal the win.

“I just tried to keep going and get that (eighth) dive out of my head,” Clerkley said. “I just focused one dive at a time. I just put my best three dives last so I can be relaxed and confident at the end of the meet.”

Fox Chapel junior Jackson Hagler also dove at states for the third year in a row. He was 19th in his freshman PIAA debut two years ago and moved up to earn an eighth-place medal last year.

This time around, Hagler, the WPIAL runner-up Feb. 24 at North Allegheny, produced his best finish, rallying to take third overall with 433.00 points.

“Going into the finals, I knew that even though they were some of my higher DD dives, they were dives I knew I could hit and that I had hit really well before. I had a lot of confidence,” Hagler said.

“The competition is so good. I had to dive well today to finish where I did. I am proud with my overall performance.”

Hagler came in with a 22.50 degree-of-difficulty total for his 11 dives.

He was situated in 13th after the first round of five dives with a total of 169.35 points.

But that all changed after the second round, through eight dives.

Hagler upped the ante, and he moved up the ladder with momentum into the finals with 293.05 points, good enough for third in the standings.

“Honestly, after that first round, I was really down,” Hagler said. “Even though I put my worst dive at the start, the low scores, it was hard to look at it. My teammates and coaches were able to keep me on the right track. They kept telling me that it was the next dive that mattered most. There always was that chance to improve. It kept me going.”

All four entries from the WPIAL were in the top eight heading into the finals.

Mt. Lebanon junior Macolm Thompson was seventh (281.40) and Seneca Valley’s Miles Miller was eighth (275.00) after eight dives.

Thompson maintained eighth and stood on the podium with a final score of 386.10.

Miller dipped two spots in the finals and finished 10th overall with 379.75 points.

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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