Cole O’Connor saved his toughest dive for last and it paid off.
The South Park senior trailed by five entering the final round, but successfully executed an inward double with a 2.8 degree of difficulty to score 46 points and vault himself to his first WPIAL Class AA diving championship Friday at North Allegheny.
O’Connor finished with a final score of 404.80 to win a tight three-way battle with runner-up Simon Iwanokiw of Quaker Valley (397.05) and Hampton’s Koda Carslaw (396.3).
North Catholic sophomore Maggie Foley successfully defended her Class AA title in the girls competition.
With a shortened field due to the coronavirus pandemic, Foley and O’Connor are the lone PIAA qualifiers from the WPIAL in Class AA.
O’Connor admitted there were some nerves as he stood on the board prior to his final dive, but after successfully executing it, he cracked a smile as he looked at the scoreboard while climbing out of the pool.
“Koda, Simon and Jonnie (McDuffie) are all excellent divers, so to be honest I was freaking out a little bit, but it worked out,” O’Connor said. “I thought I did pretty well on that dive. It was 46 points, which was my highest scoring dive, so I’ll take it.”
Carslaw led going into the 11th and final round, but was overtaken by Iwanokiw and O’Connor. Iwanokiw, who led after preliminaries, finished as the runner-up for the second consecutive year. McDuffie (Ringgold) finished fourth at 373.9, and freshman Brecken Finkbiner (Blackhawk) placed fifth at 323.35.
O’Connor was third after preliminaries and more than 25 points off the lead, but liked his position because of what dives he selected for the semifinals and finals.
“I put all of my best dives at the end, so I was confident in them,” O’Connor said. “The double twist, my next to last dive, was brand new for me this year, so I was really worried about that one, but I scored pretty well on it. My last dive, the inward double, I’ve been doing that dive since my first day diving, so I felt pretty confident about it.”
Foley trailed Central Valley’s Alexa Gonczi by five points after the preliminary round, but took the lead in the semifinals and put an exclamation mark on the afternoon by scoring 48.4, 37, 48 in the finals, finishing with a score of 441.05.
“My first dive in the last round was an inward one-and-a-half, and that’s my favorite dive,” Foley said. “It’s one that I know I can pull out when I need it to be done well. I feel the same about my front two-and-a-half, which was my last dive. I haven’t been feeling confident in my front twisting dives, so I sandwiched it in between them, so in case something went really wrong. I did OK with it, but I was really happy with my other two dives. They made up the points I missed.”
Gonczi placed second at 422.8, Derry’s Allison Cowan was third at 344.60, Thomas Jefferson freshman Addison Arndt finished fourth with a 323.15, and Central Valley’s Alyssa Bruno had a 322.8 to round out the top five.
Foley was slated to be the top seed at the PIAA championships last year before they were canceled. She’s excited to get the opportunity to go for state gold this year.
“It’s a really good feeling,” Foley said. “I wish they were taking some of the other (WPIAL) girls, because it’s going to be hard being the only girl from the district. It’ll just be my coach and I. I’ve never met any of the girls I’ll be competing against, but I’m definitely excited for it.”
Watch the archived video stream broadcast of the boys and girls championships on the TribLive High School Sports Network.