The Star-News

Head or feet first -- there's no shortage of local dive talent

Fri, Apr 22 2011 11:53 PM Posted By: Phillip Brents

The South Bay has become a hotbed of late for the sport of high school diving. To back up that statement,  an April 7 dual meet at the Parkway pool between the Hilltop Lancers and Otay Ranch Mustangs featured 14 divers — an impressive seven from each team.

“Obviously, I’m very happy for everyone in the South Bay to have so many step up in diving,” Hilltop swim coach John Salts said. “I’ve talked with Otay Ranch coach Ernie Medina and he agrees that diving can only help out teams in terms of scoring in dual meets.”

The Metro Conference may never produce an Olympic gold medalist but it has produced San Diego Section champions and this year’s crop of divers may very well find themselves climbing up to elite territory at May’s CIF finals.

Mar Vista’s Michelle McDonald recorded a career-best fourth place finish at last year’s Division II dive meet and ranks as the South Bay’s most experienced female diver. She has won three South Bay League titles and topped all divers at last year’s Metro finals with 173 points.

Hilltop’s Ashley Relph is the defending Mesa League champion while teammate  Marissa Ringwald  won the league title in 2009.

Top male divers include Hilltop’s Shane Garvin, Otay Ranch’s Carlo Fiorillo and Chula Vista’s Johnny Hewuse. Garvin placed second at last year’s Mesa League championships (to graduated Lancer senior Leo Diaz de Leon) while Hewuse finished just 0.15 points behind Garvin in third place. Hilltop’s Aaron Siaumau was fourth while Fiorillo was fifth.

Depending on the day, they could finish in any order.

At the April 7 dual meet, Garvin and Siaumau finished first and second, respectively, ahead of Fiorillo.

“I’m very proud of both of them for all the hard work they’ve put in with attending camps and private lessons,” Salts said in reference to Garvin and Siaumau. “It’s paying off in the dual meets. Shane is undefeated and Aaron has been No. 2 in all the dual meets. They’re both friends and support each other. They’re perfect teammates.”

The Lancers have 17 divers total this season (eight boys and nine girls) and seem equally balanced talent and depth-wise in both genders.

Coaching has helped raise the standard on local diving boards. Hilltop dive team is coached by former Division II champion Kyle Kovar, a Lancer alumnus.
Coaches are not picky about sharing technique tidbits with divers on opposing teams, thus further raising the level of competition.

“We’re fortunate to be getting some quality coaching now in the South Bay,” Salts said. “It helps raise the level for everyone. The better the competition, the better it makes it for everyone.”

Garvin finished 14th in a strong field of 22 divers at last year’s Division I championship meet with 191.35 points while Siaumau was 17th with 186.10 points and Hewuse was 19th with 178.80 points.

Judges look for four essential items on any particular dive: approach, the actual hurdle in leaving the board, the amount of “air” achieved on a dive and entry.

Divers should enter the water with their arms at their sides and their toes pointed in the appropriate direction.

“If you’re entering head first, your toes should be pointed up,” Salts said.

In the perfect pike position, the chest touches the thighs with hands cradling the back of the calves.

In the tuck position, the chin is between the knees, with hands on the front of the shin.

This is Garvin’s fourth year diving at Hilltop. He is joined on the Lancers by fellow senior Jason Jasmund, a third-year diver,  and junior Siaumau, a second-year diver.

Jasmund placed fourth in the competition at the April 7 dual.

Garvin and Siaumau, as well as Otay Ranch’s Fiorillo and Mar Vista’s McDonald, were among several South Bay divers who attended an elite dive camp over the summer in Indiana.

“I want to dive my last senior year to my best ability,” Garvin said succinctly. “I want to put in as much work as I can.”

The Hilltop diver said the mental approach to completing each dive is the key.

“You’ve just got to go for it — hold nothing back,” he said.

Garvin could be the surprise of this year’s post-season competition if he nails all his dives. He was in position for a top three finish at the Fallbrook Invitational earlier this season before he missed two dives to place sixth in the field.

“It was kind of disappointing,” he said. “I was in the top three before I messed up on two dives that killed my score.”

Fiorillo’s goal is to dive at this year’s CIF meet. The qualifying standard for six dives is 145 points for consideration and 185 points for automatic entry.

He has already eclipsed last year’s Metro finals score this year.

“I’ve qualified before but have not actually competed yet,” said the third-year Otay Ranch diver, who missed a year of competition because of health reasons. “I’m taking things very positive this year and hoping it will bring out my best.”

On the girls side, Hilltop is loaded with senior talent: Ashley Johnson, Relph, BreAna Reef and Ringwald. All are four-year divers on the team.

Relph and Ringwald also attended the same camp over the summer as Garvin and Siaumau.

Relph, Reef and Ringwald finished in that order at last year’s league finals. Salts believes his top four seniors have the potential to once again score among the top finishers at the Mesa League finals.

“All four have about the same ability and any of them can win it,” the HHS coach said.
In fact, there is so much talent on the Lancer girls dive squad that not all can score in a dual meet. Only three divers from each team in a dual meet can score. Thus, Salts said, one of the four has to dive exhibition in each weekly dual meet.

Relph drew the honor in the meet against the Mustangs.

“We rotate them, so each one gets to dive exhibition,” Salts said.
That doesn’t take anything away from the competition, though. Otay Ranch’s Zully Maldonado bested Hilltop’s Johnson, Ringwald and Reef to capture first place in the dual match-up.

“Congratulations definitely go to the Otay Ranch diver,” Salts said. “She earned it.”

All four Hilltop seniors will be eligible to score at the league finals, which could produce some rather interesting results.

“It could get interesting,” Salts said. “I still see our girls finishing first through fourth.”

Competition, it seems, has arrived.

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