Mia Prusiecki was this close to defending her IHSAA State one-meter diving championship Saturday at the Indiana University Natatorium on the campus of IUPUI.
All the groundwork was in place. A week earlier, the Center Grove junior racked up 520.95 points to dominate the Franklin Community sectional. On Tuesday, she won the Jasper diving regional by nearly 100 points, finishing with a score of 539.85.
Then the unthinkable happened.
Center Grove diving coach Fred Hill needed an emergency appendectomy in the middle of the night Thursday.
To some, that would be completely unnerving. After all, Prusiecki was planning to finish the state meet with a new and difficult dive.
But those around Prusiecki made sure she stayed grounded.
With the help of head coach Brad Smith, her teammates and the coaches at Franklin and Indian Creek, Prusiecki did indeed retain her title.
On her very last dive.
She totaled 52.70 points on that final attempt, an inward 2-1/2 somersaults out of the tuck position.
That effort enabled Prusiecki to pass Fort Wayne Snider sophomore Amelia Rinehart. She finished with 478.30 points to 466.70 for Rinehart.
“It’s just a matter of keeping your nerves and having fun,” Prusiecki said. “You need both.”
And that great finishing dive.
After Rinehart’s 11th dive, she had 466.70 points to 425.60 for Prusiecki. So the latter needed a score of 41.20 to take the lead.
“My last dive was a big dive,” Prusiecki said. “If I could hit it, that’s a big dive. This is my first year of competing this dive. The degree of difficulty was 3.1, so I had that.”
Her scores from the seven judges ranged from 4.5 to 7.0. Other than the 4.5, the rest were almost all 5.5.
“The poor guy’s still in the hospital,” Prusiecki said of Hill. “He’s a great coach, a great guy. I had a few other coaches help me out here.”
Coach Smith echoed that sentiment, saying, “She could have lost her way. We got everything ready Friday to keep her in her routine. We found help from Franklin and Indian Creek, so that was good. We’re all in this together.”
Especially on Saturday.
With junior Lara Phipps competing in four events, the Trojans finished ninth overall with 91 points.
“Our goal was to be Top 10, so this is a huge step for the program to come back,” Smith said. “We were 13th last year. We walked out of here today with five medals.”
Phipps took seventh in the 100-yard butterfly with a clocking of 55.86 seconds. She was eighth in the 200-yard individual medley, swimming the butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle legs in 2:04.98.
Phipps joined fellow juniors Lexi Stuart and Grace Clarkston and sophomore Tenley Wilkins to take sixth in the 200 freestyle relay at 1:35.36. Stuart, Wilkins, Phipps and sophomore Clara Brandon placed eighth in the 400 freestyle relay at 3:32.96, nearly two seconds faster than they qualified Friday night.
“Lara’s an extremely hard worker,” Smith said. “Everybody Is a junior or under, so we have set the framework for next year.”
Another area diver who finished well was Franklin Central senior Devynn Bishop. She scored 40 points on her last dive, leaping from eighth to fourth with a total score of 442.70.
Southport senior Noelle Bryan placed 13th in the 50 freestyle at 24.31 seconds after qualifying 14th at 24.22.