CANTON – The climb to the top just got shorter.
Finishing three spots better than last year, Lexington junior Evan Heth earned a third-place medal among 24 Division II competitors in Wednesday’s 1-meter diving at the state swim meet in the C.T. Branin Natatorium.
Heth, seeded fourth, was third after prelims and held his ground en route to a final score of 428.70, avenging last week’s loss to district champion Caleb Keck of Coldwater. Keck, a sophomore, finished fourth (415.60). Seniors Stewart Spanbauer of Cincinnati Summit Country Day (458.85) and Trent Hagenbuch of Kettering Alter (428.70) finished first and second, respectively.
Ontario freshman Kristian Kowalski, a training partner of Heth and Ontario junior Ty Carcione at the Friendly House, grabbed the last podium spot with an eighth-place finish (382.85).
“It helps knowing the top two finishers will be gone after this year, but you never know when freshmen like Kristian will be coming up,” Heth said.
His goals were to place in the top three and get revenge against Keck. Check and check.
“He beat me by a small margin (on last week’s final dive), so I knew if I kicked it into gear I could beat him,” Heth said. “This meet came down to the final dive (between us) again.”
Heth tried a different approach after consulting with Rob Roth, who coaches the Lex and Ontario divers, including Lex freshman Tanner Donley, who narrowly missed qualifying for state as well. Heth saved some of his higher DD (degree of difficulty) dives for the end, a strategy he learned from watching Keck at districts.
“Some of the higher DD dives are also my most comfortable dives, so I knew I could get good scores at the end,” Heth said. “Sometimes, the easier dives are easier to mess up.”
Having made it to state the two previous years made Heth feel right at home.
“Having those meets behind me helped a lot, because in big meets like this it’s easy to psyche yourself out,” Heth said. “It’s happened to me before. I used to get worked up following the scores on the Clean Entries website, but today I knew I could beat them so I didn’t worry about. I’d do my dive and then go sit with Kristian and Ty.”
Kowalski started out strong and was sitting sixth, one spot higher than he was seeded. He finished less than seven points behind seventh-place Chandler Kimmel of Celina.
“Kristian put a lot of his higher DD dives in the beginning, other than his last one,” Roth said. “That last dive helped.”
Roth said it takes a lot of self-confidence to use the strategy Heth followed Wednesday.
“It was mostly his idea to do the better, higher degree of difficulty dives at the end, and it worked out wonderfully,” Roth said. “Depending on the person, sometimes you get behind early and get worried, but he was pretty calm the whole time.
“Two of the divers (Heth and Carcione) are going to be graduating after next year, so hopefully we can get all four of them on the podium.”