Diving is a sport that does not get much acclaim in the Colonial Valley Conference, but the Lawrence High School board walkers sure do make a name for themselves in the state.
The Cardinals qualified four boys and one girl in the NJSIAA state diving championships at Montgomery High School, held Feb. 28 and March 1. Three on the boys’ team finished in the top 12 out of 18 participants, while girls’ freshman Ola Kwasniewski was 11th out of 16 girls.
The Cardinals also won the Mercer County co-ed team championship Jan. 31. Adam LeCompte, Luke Annand, Ryan Morris, Joey Briggs and Jared Featherston all placed for the boys, while Kwasniewski and Susana Gagliardi placed for the girls.
“I believe that Lawrence has a great feeder program,” said Emily Palombo, who served as the Cardinals’ unofficial coach. “The local pools, Ben Franklin and Lawrence Swimming Association, both have diving, and I think all four of them started diving for PASDA and then started diving on club teams.”
To qualify for states, a diver must perform 11 dives during the course of the season and receive a score of 228 or higher. Juniors LeCompte, Annand and Morris and freshmen Featherston and Kwasniewski all accomplished that feat.
Notre Dame’s Seamus Harding won the boys’ event with a meet-record 591 points. LeCompte finished fourth with a score of 478.20, followed by Annand (11th, 330.15), Morris (12th, 318.45) and Featherston (18th, 233.95).
“The boys performed well,” Palombo said. “It is a long meet, and it is tough to perform 11 dives and stay focused. I thought all of them did a nice job staying focused and they executed their dives well.”
According to Palombo, all four are fearless and possess similar strengths. She noted that LeCompte is strong at getting height while staying tight to complete his drive. Annand also gets good height and enters the water vertical, which is key, and Featherston gets good height off his hurdle while maintaining strong focus. Morris, she added, was good at staying tight and entering the water as close to the board as possible, which is usually the aim.
Lawrence had the most boys of any school in the event, as Clearview had three, while Atlantic City and Mahwah had two apiece.
“All the boys get along very well,” Palombo said. “They cheer for each other after every dive, and they hang out together while they are waiting for their turn. The diving world is pretty small, so all the divers know each other and push each other.”
Kwasniewski competed one day earlier than the boys and recorded a score of 356.30. Haddonfield’s Sophia Peifer won her fourth straight title at the meet with a score of 537.60.
“I thought Ola did really well during the meet,” Palombo said. “She executed her dives well, and stayed focused throughout the meet. I think to be a diver, you have to be mentally tough and fearless. After every dive, Ola views her dives and decides what she needs to fix. I think she was nervous, naturally. However, she seemed to stay focused and did a nice job throughout the meet.”
The coach feels Kwasniewski is much like the boys in ability—getting good height and staying tight—and added that, “She is graceful when she dives.”
Considering that not one Cardinal was a senior, it is quite possible Lawrence will grace the states with an abundance of competitors again next year.