WPIAL diving champs ready to take on state’s best

Friday, March 12, 2021 | 5:42 PM

The “fab four” of WPIAL diving champions will attempt to claim more gold Saturday at the PIAA Class AAA and Class AA competitions at Cumberland Valley High School.

Representing the WPIAL are Fox Chapel senior David Manelis and North Allegheny sophomore Christina Shi in Class AAA and South Park senior Cole O’Connor and North Catholic sophomore Maggie Foley in Class AA.

A year ago Thursday, Class AAA girls diving capped a state swimming and diving meet truncated in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. The Class AAA swimming Day 2 consolation and championship finals were canceled as was the entire Class AA swimming and diving competition.

This year’s state swimming and diving meets were moved from Bucknell University to Cumberland Valley because of covid capacity limitations.

“Christina is confident coming into states. Her goal is to win it, and I absolutely think she can do that,” North Allegheny coach Patti McClure said of Shi, who claimed her second consecutive WPIAL Class AAA title on Feb. 27 at North Allegheny.

Shi was fifth at states last year.

Changes also were made to the number of entries for both swimming and diving. The PIAA designated that only district champions will take part in the state diving competitions, unlike next weekend’s swim meets, which also include at-large selections to fill out a field of 16 for each individual and relay event.

“I didn’t quite understand the rationale for that,” McClure said. “Diving is an event in a swim meet, and I felt that what you do for one event should be done across the board. (The PIAA) had their reasons, and that’s fine. I think everyone will put their best foot forward. Hopefully, next year, we can go back to normal.”

Class AA girls starts everything off Saturday at 8:30 a.m. with the Class AA boys at noon, the Class AAA girls at 3:30 p.m. and the Class AAA boys at 6:40.

Shi, senior Maya Ennis and sophomore Zoe Ky gave North Allegheny a 1-2-3 finish at WPIALs for the second year in a row. Ennis was third at states last year. Ky was 13th.

Shi is the top seed for the Class AAA girls with her 532.65 from WPIALs. McDowell senior Kalli Knott, 20th at states last year, is the No. 2 seed with a seed score of 434.90.

Coming out of WPIALs, Shi said she expects to be more mentally ready to compete at states than she was in her PIAA debut last year.

Manelis said four years of WPIAL and PIAA competition has flown by.

As a freshman in 2018, he shared the state-competition experience with former Foxes teammate Jonah Cagley. That year, Cagley took third while Manelis placed 10th.

Manelis returned to states as sophomore and jumped to a silver medal. Cagley was fifth.

Last year, Manelis came in third behind Emmaus grad Brendan McCourt and Abington’s Conor Gesing.

Manelis and Gesing, a junior, are expected to be a featured one-on-one matchup as Manelis is the No. 1 seed with 571.75 points and Gesing is seeded second (538.95).

“I’ve known Connor since sophomore year, and we’ve competed together outside of high school at club meets,” Manelis said. “It will be an exciting meet.”

Manelis hopes to challenge the PIAA record of 596.15 points set in 2014.

“Training has been going well, and I’ve been working on some finishing touches,” he said. “It sure has boosted my confidence, and I am excited to compete (Saturday). I am only now starting to understand that this state meet will be my last high school meet, and I honestly can’t believe time has passed so quickly.”

O’Connor is tied for the third seed (404.80 points) in boys Class AA after edging out Quaker Valley’s Simon Iwanokiw (397.05) and Hampton’s Koda Carslaw (396.3) for the WPIAL crown.

Leading the way is Upper Moreland junior Brandon Bush with a seed total of 427.20 points.

O’Connor placed third at WPIALs last year but was denied his opportunity at states. He does have PIAA experience with two finals appearances. He took 15th as a sophomore and 16th as a freshman.

Foley will make her PIAA meet debut. She collected 441.05 points at WPIALs and is seeded second to Marple Newtown junior Alexandra Pastris.

Pastris earned an eighth-place medal in the Class AAA meet in 2019.

Foley, now a two-time WPIAL champion, was the top seed for Class AA states last year, but, like O’Connor, she was not able to compete at Bucknell.

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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