SOUTH ABINGTON TWP. — Two Abington Heights junior divers improved throughout the season and recently performed well on a big stage.
Carter Smith placed first in the District 2-4 Class 3A Regional Diving Championships Feb. 24 at the Wilkes-Barre CYC with a score of 463.50. The next closest competitor was Williamsport’s Jack Beattie with a score of 334.45.
“Going into it, I knew I stood a chance to win, but I also knew there were a lot of strong competitors,” Smith said. “After the first couple dives, I knew that I had a significant lead. From that point, I just took it step by step and tried to perfect each dive as I went through the list.”
Abington Heights swimming and diving coach Zack Haney felt Smith had one of his most complete performances of the season at districts.
“He didn’t really have a dive that would be considered bad,” Haney said. “He learned how to adapt. If he had a bad approach, he figured out within the dive how to adapt and land it spot on. He learned how to deal with the imperfections and I think that’s what made him dive really well.
“One of the dives that I think really helped him is the front 2 1/2. It wasn’t pretty at first, but he got it around. It helped him beat the school’s six-dive record and from there it’s gotten better and better.”
Smith believes his back somersault 2 1/2 twist dive helped separate him from the competition at districts.
“I knew I had to up my degree of difficulty throughout the season, so I really focused on perfecting higher difficulty dives,” he said. “I don’t always get the best scores on it, but with the degree of difficulty it really boosts me up.”
Haney feels Smith’s all-around improvement helped him qualify for the PIAA Championships March 13-15 at Bucknell University.
“I feel like he’s matured a lot from last year,” Haney said. “He’s also gotten bigger and stronger, physically. At the same time, I feel like, from a mental perspective, he’s become more of a true diver. He’s more aware of himself and what he needs to do. He knows what he does wrong and can self-correct. He’s also grown into the role of being a favorite in the district and has embraced the competition. He’s confident and is performing very well with that mindset.”
Camille Marquardt won the Les Richards Championship Feb. 16 at Scranton High School with a score of 304.95.
“She really put it all together at Les Richards,” Haney said. “She hit her first three or four dives really well and I think her confidence built from there. I don’t think she went in expecting to win and I think that took a lot of pressure off her. It was a really happy moment for her when she found out she won. And, she won because she was so consistent.”
Marquardt overcame a shaky start before the meet to win the gold medal.
“In my warmups, my dives weren’t as good as I wanted them to be compared to other days and meets,” she said. “As soon as I got on the board for the first dive, I took my time, got my confidence up and it went really well.”
Marquardt also placed fifth at districts with a score of 285.60. Wyoming Valley West’s Sophia Ginocchetti won with a score of 452.10.
“She beat her score from last year by 30 or 40 points, so she made a huge improvement,” Haney said of Marquardt. “Her reverse dive pike and reverse somersault have come a really long way. They are usually have favorite dives and she’s very consistent with them.”
Despite finishing a little lower than she would have liked, Marquardt was still pleased with her performance.
“It definitely wasn’t my best day, but I’m still happy I made it that far because last year I didn’t even place,” she said.
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.