Girls Swimming: More heart involved in third state diving title for Regis Jesuit’s McKensi Austin

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Regis Jesuit High School diving coach, Taylor Roberts, talks with sophomore Anne Marie Kenny, center, and senior McKensi Austin as they hug after competing in the Class 5A diving championships on Feb. 13, 2016, at the Edora Pool & Ice Center. Austin won her third career 5A state diving championship and Kenny finished sixth. (Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel)
Regis Jesuit High School diving coach, Taylor Roberts, talks with sophomore Anne Marie Kenny, center, and senior McKensi Austin as they hug after competing in the Class 5A diving championships on Feb. 13, 2016, at the Edora Pool & Ice Center. Austin won her third career 5A state diving championship and Kenny finished sixth. (Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel)

Though she ends her prep career with three Class 5A state diving championships, the sweetest was easy to pick for Regis Jesuit’s McKensi Austin.

For many reasons, her senior title — which she won by a whopping 72-point margin Feb. 13 at the Edora Pool & Ice Center in Fort Collins — stands out in the midst of a lot of winning at the prep level.

The consistent, supremely focused University of Georgia signee racked up 539.90 points to win handily over the other 15 divers in the finals. Austin combined with sophomore teammate Anne Marie Kenny (who placed sixth) to give Regis Jesuit key points it needed to finish second as a team and she later received 5A Diver of the Year honors as selected by state coaches.

“This year was really special because its senior year and it’s my last night school diving meet ever,” said Austin, who racked up a winning total of 539.90 points. “It’s bittersweet and it hits hard, but this one is definitely really cool…I felt really good today and this was the perfect end to my high school career.”

Austin was the class of the state from start to finish, so her state title wasn’t unexpected, but the presence of first-year diving coach Taylor Roberts to witness the performance made her experience extra special.

Just six weeks removed from suffering a heart attack at just 30 years of age, Roberts made his way on the deck to watch Austin’s accomplishment, much as he’d witnessed Kyle Goodwin win an unprecedented fourth boys diving championship for Regis Jesuit in May.

Austin only got to work with Roberts for a short time, but he still made quite an impact on her.

“It doesn’t matter if I’ve worked with a coach for three months or eight years, it’s still somebody who spends their time to make me better,” Austin said. “He’s busy with his other job, he has a wife and especially with his health issues, it’s so amazing that he is willing to be here for us.

“I really admire Taylor and what he’s done for me and Anne Marie and every other diver he works with. He’s an amazing coach.”

Roberts was glad to be on hand and he spoke frankly about everything he’d gone through in the last six weeks.

“The heart attack was really unexpected, I didn’t have any risk factors or family history,” said Roberts, who went to the hospital with chest pain right before he and his wife left for vacation in early January.

“I had three major blockages, so I had four stents put in and I’m feeling OK,” he added. “I’m feeling healthy. I have no energy at all, but we have a good game plan for recovery. It will be a long road, but I’m definitely feeling healthy.”

Roberts continues to get advice on his situation from a familiar face in Scott Cohen, Roberts’ swim coach at Smoky Hill when he won a 5A boys state diving championship before going on to compete at Indiana University, who has had seven heart surgeries at a young age.

“Scott reached out after I made it public what happened,” Roberts said. “We had a great conversation yesterday while they were practicing and what he went through at a young age. It wasn’t at 30 for him, it was 37, but getting to hear from him about something he got through is great. Taking advice from the doctors and not pushing yourself is very important.”

To that end, Roberts is giving up his duties coaching the Regis Jesuit boys divers in the spring, with veteran dive coach Darren Hesse will fill in for him — but he was glad to be on deck to witness the third championship for Austin.

Kenny got even less time this season to work with Roberts, as she spent the first semester of the school year doing a study abroad program in Guadalajara, Mexico.

She got back into the sport quickly and kept improving. Kenny finished eighth at the Continental “A” League Championships a week before state, then jumped over four of those divers who finished in front of her at the league meet in the final standings.

Kenny said her goal coming it was just to make the finals and did more than that. She scored five more points and finished five places higher than her 11th-place result last season.

“It just took a little bit of extra practice when I got back,” Kenny said. “It’s mostly muscle memory, so I got back into it pretty easily.”

Roberts was glad to see both of his divers perform their best in the biggest meet.

“From start to finish, both girls were really consistent,” Roberts said. “They really took it one dive at a time and executed as well as they have all year.”

Aurora’s other diving state qualifiers — Cherokee Trail’s Christie Yee and Sarah Fangrow, Grandview’s Isobel Griffin, Hinkley’s Brooke Connelly and Rangeview’s Sarah Mortenson — missed the finals.

Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel

2016 CLASS 5A STATE DIVING RESULTS

Feb. 13 at Edora Pool & Ice Center

1-meter diving: A Final — 1. MCKENSI AUSTIN (REGIS JESUIT), 539.90 points; 2. Julia Benz (Fairview), 467.80; 3. Lexie Barker (Douglas County), 463.60; 4. Becca Hetrick (Lewis-Palmer), 461.55; 5. Samantha Tamborski (Douglas County), 459.35; 6. ANNE MARIE KENNY (REGIS JESUIT), 431.10; 7. Kirsten Belitz (Arapahoe), 425.95; 8. Katie Conn (Broomfield), 419.45; 9. Mackenzie Blomquist (Pine Creek), 417.50; 10. Jenelle Crozier (Chatfield), 416.75; 11. Gretchen Wensue (ThunderRidge), 413.60; 12. Morgan McCarthy (Fort Collins), 408.40; 13. Aubrey Park (Douglas County), 405.05; 14. Ashley Jones (ThunderRidge), 395.60; 15. Ashlyn Foster (Lewis-Palmer), 384.65; 16. Anna Kemper (Lewis-Palmer), 369.05