Marcel Harris has treated school diving records like a row of dominoes.
He’s toppled them, one after the other.
The Sheboygan North senior did his most recent toppling at a Division 1 sectional meet last week in Neenah, where his 11 dives netted a state-qualifying score of 481.40 — a significant leap from his own previous school record-setting 423.70.
“It makes me really happy knowing that I did break the records multiple times,” Harris said this week. Besides his 11-dive record, he also holds team and North pool records in the six-dive event (his record score is a 318.75). “Now it’s the time in my season where I’m just focusing and trying to stay humble so I can do the best that I can at State.”
Harris, who’s seeded second in the diving competition behind only Neenah’s Draven Feustel, will be the Sheboygan area’s lone representative at Saturday’s WIAA Division 1 State Swimming and Diving Championships in Madison. A handful of Plymouth swimmers and divers are expected to compete today in the Division 2 championships.
“It exceeds my expectations,” Chad Velier, North’s diving coach, said earlier this week of Harris’ second-place seed. “He’s always been really good and he’s been really talented. … To be seeded No. 2 and just a couple points off the No. 1 — I dreamed about it, maybe; I never expected that. But he’s worked really hard.”
Feustal and Harris faced each other at their recent sectional meet, where Feustal earned a slightly better state-qualifying score of 486.85 to take the top seed in Madison. Their near-identical seeds could set up a tight race for the top podium spot this weekend. Both look like they’ll compete in a class of their own — the next-best diver in Madison, Franklin’s August Beck, has a third-seeded score of 435.35.
“It basically is going to come down to who misses a dive — who is a little off that day,” Velier said. “… Neither are going to miss a dive. It’s just going to come down to the really little things.”
Harris said he’s decided to forgo wearing the protective back brace he’s used throughout his high school diving career — a decision he credits for the recent drastic improvement in his score. He began wearing the brace after he injured his back while in gymnastics, but he said his rehabilitation has advanced enough to let him comfortably dive without it.
“It makes my dives a lot easier, my entries are a lot better, so now I’m more happy to dive without it,” he said, noting he began practicing without the device a while ago and took it off for his sectional dives last weekend — when his 11-dive score skyrocketed by nearly 60 points.
“I have more control over my body now,” he said.
Harris said he’s hoping to take first place at the state diving competition on Saturday, but would be OK if he landed somewhere in the top three.
“I really try not to think about it because anything can happen,” he said, noting he’s trying not to focus too much on his second-place seed. “So I’m just trying to stay humble, have confidence in myself and whatever happens, happens.”
Plymouth sends 7
Plymouth is sending two divers and five swimmers to today’s Division 2 meet. The school has sent swimmers to State each year since 2008.
Evan Klemme and Corby Gafney will compete in diving — it’s Klemme’s second straight year doing so.
Lucas Collard, Chaz Halderson, Ryan Holec, Matt Matz and Zach Gambrell will swim in several events, including two relays. Collard advanced individually in the 200 freestyle after he won a sectional championship last week in that event, while he and the other Panthers swimmers will also compete in both the 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle relays.
“Last week was an amazing experience. They swam their best times by far,” Plymouth coach Clare Sedlacek said, referring to her athletes’ performances at a sectional meet last Saturday. “… So all we want to do is hold that time, maybe get a little bit better, finish well.
“I really think the 200 (freestyle relay), if they have a great swim — all the 200 free relay is is starts and turns — if you put it all together and the other people don’t, we could get top six,” Sedlacek said of what she thinks could be a potentially medal-worthy finish by her Panthers’ 10th-seeded relay. “But everything would have to be perfect.”
“I’ve worked four years for this. I definitely think it’s a fun experience to go to State again,” said Matt Matz, who’s expecting to swim in both relays today in his second straight trip to the state championships.
Matz said the experience he gained last year should help calm his nerves a bit today.
Ditto for Klemme, who’s making his own return trip to Madison in diving.
“It’s a lot different having cameras and everything because you don’t ever have that,” Klemme said of the frenetic atmosphere inside the University of Wisconsin’s natatorium. “But this year, with knowing that there’s cameras and how it already feels, I should probably not be as nervous, probably do a little better.”