THORNTON | McKensi Austin already wanted to win a Class 5A state championship in diving even before her Regis Jesuit teammates upped the ante.
But the sophomore’s sense of urgency shot through the roof going into the finals Saturday afternoon at the Veterans’ Memorial Aquatic Center after the Raiders’ 200 yard medley relay set a winning tone.
Nervous, but motivated, Austin nailed her final three dives on her way to a pool-record 494.45 points, which earned 20 points for Regis Jesuit in the team race. Junior Kellyn Toole chipped in seven more with her 10th-place finish and the Raiders went on to hold off Fairview by just 6.5 points to secure their second consecutive 5A state championship.
“After that (the relay win), I was shaking, thinking ‘oh, there’s so much pressure now,'” said Austin, who became the first diver in Regis Jesuit’s short varsity history to win a state championship.
“It really motivates you. I wanted this for the team because we worked so hard all year,” she added.
Coming off a slight hiccup the previous week when she hit her hand on the diving board on her to winning the Continental “A” League championship, Austin — who finished fourth at last year’s state meet — scored 344.85 points in the prelims to take a 15.25-point edge on Douglas County’s Kaitlin Costello into the finals.
At ease with diving in a building where she won the Coaches Invitational in December with a score of 484.45 points, Austin visualized and executed all three of her dives, capping the finals with a score of 58 points on her final attempt.
“We’re taught to do a lot of mental stuff; diving is 90 percent muscle memory and 10 percent in your mind,” said Austin, who also got to watch each of her attempts just seconds after getting out of the water on Regis Jesuit diving coach Kim Hagger’s iPad.
Austin finished 31.05 points clear of runner-up Costello and 45.75 ahead of friend and club synchronized dive partner Averly Hobbs of Chatfield to become the first new 5A state diving champion since 2009, following the graduation of four-time state champion Michal Bower of Loveland.
Austin put herself in position for a chance to become a three-time winner, though 12 of the 16 finalists this season were underclassmen.
Hagger — who was named 5A Dive Coach of the Year after the meet — coached a team that had four state qualifiers in all, the most of any team at the meet, in Austin, Toole and seniors Danielle Clayton and Shayla Frederich, who missed qualifying for finals.
Toole scored 403.40 points to capture 10th-place in the 16-diver field and earn her third place in as many seasons at state, following up a 16th-place finish as a freshman and 8th-place result last season. Only Costello and Hobbs have also placed in each of the past three state meets.
Among the divers Toole finished in front of in the finals was Julia Benz of Fairview, the team that was in contention with Regis Jesuit for the state title down to the final event.
“Kellyn moved up a spot from where she was seeded coming in and one of those she moved up past was a Fairview diver,” Raiders coach Nick Frasersmith said. “You can look down and every point mattered. It was huge what we got from our divers.”
Toole, a multi-sport athlete, contributed to her second state team championship of the school year. She was also a key part of the Overland co-op gymnastics team that won the 5A state crown in the fall.
Aurora’s third diving placer was a first-timer at the state meet, as Eaglecrest junior Indiya Williams scored 413.05 points to finished eighth.
Williams dove exclusively in the club ranks the past two seasons, but decided to come out for her high school team this season in hopes of getting more exposure with college programs. She reached her goal of making the top 10 and scored 11 points, which put Eaglecrest 30th among 34 scoring teams.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. Facebook: Aurora Prep Sentinel
2014 CLASS 5A GIRLS STATE DIVING FINALS
Feb. 15 at Veterans’ Memorial Aquatic Center
1-meter diving: 1. MCKENSI AUSTIN (REGIS JESUIT), 494.45 points; 2. Kaitlin Costello (Douglas County/Castle View), 463.40; 3. Averly Hobbs (Chatfield), 448.80; 4. Hailey Nelson (Fossil Ridge), 418.30; 5. Taylor Jackson (Mountain Range), 417.75; 6. Isabella Farrell (Palmer), 417.30; 7. Allison Murphy (Lakewood), 416.90; 8. INDIYA WILLIAMS (EAGLECREST), 413.05; 9. Tori Ritter (Rock Canyon), 404.55; 10. KELLYN TOOLE (REGIS JESUIT), 403.40; 11. Julia Benz (Fairview), 399.50; 12. Marina Dilley (Fort Collins), 387.60; 13. Katie Nissile (Horizon), 381.15; 14. Savannah Magness (Monarch), 373.05; 15. Melani Kouskoutis (Cherry Creek), 371.45; 16. Becca Hetrick (Lewis-Palmer), 358.90