Pine-Richland senior Dominic Giordano won the WPIAL Class AAA Diving Championship Saturday at North North Allegheny High School's pool and he did it with a flare and an exclamation point.
Giordano set a WPIAL record by scoring 610.00 points, breaking the previous record score of 607.30 set in 2011 by North Allegheny's Connor Kuremsky. For Giordano, the achievement took a little of everything.
Going into the 11th round of dives, Giordano was ahead of all the other divers and focused on breaking Kuremsky's record. But as the divers warmed up to complete the final round, the North Allegheny diving board issued an earsplitting rattle. Something wasn't right.
"One of the pieces came loose from the fulcrum," Pine-Richland diving coach Maria Misenhelter said. "It didn't pose any physical hazard, but the board was making a loud, loud noise."
"I was just afraid they would tell me to use another board," Giordano said. "With divers, you pick a board you like and stay on it because that's the board you like ... I was pretty nervous when [the board lost a part]."
Luckily, University of Pittsburgh diving coach Julian Krug, who is also Giordano's coach at the Pitt Aquatic Club, was on hand. Krug clamped the loose board fulcrum, and went back to his office at Pitt to pick up spare parts. That way, the board could be used for the boys' competition while Krug picked up parts to repair it for the girls.'
"He's like, a genius with trying to find out what's wrong with boards," Giordano said.
With North Allegheny's board clamped together, Giordano readied for the final round. He calculated that he needed 70.2 points from his last dive in order to beat Kuremsky's record.
"The way I was looking at it was that I had to get all nines," Giordano said.
Fortunately, he'd planned for his last dive to be a front twister.
Giordano walked down the jury-rigged board and took off. He did one-and-a-half somersaults and two twists before entering the water. Sure enough, Giordano received all nines.
"I put that twister last because it's one of my best dives," Giordano said. "I'm really comfortable with it, it's one of my higher degrees-of-difficulty, I'm solid with it, and I know I can hit it."
The scoreboard quickly posted Giordano's total.
"I was just really, really happy," he said. "I think my reaction was just, 'Finally!' For so long I'd been hearing [Kuremsky's] would be the record that stays up for a while. Connor is such an unbelievable diver ... I couldn't believe I beat Connor Kuremsky's record."
With all divers, a portion of the competition is mental -- they must prevent their minds from getting in the way. Misenhelter noted that Giordano's high standards sometimes make him in need of calming.
"We tell him, 'Dom, don't win the warm-up,'" Misenhelter said.
"Once I do my first dive, I'll start calming down," Giordano explained. "Every time I go up to the board, I focus myself. Once they call my name, I take a deep breath and just do the dive."
In addition to championship-level diving, Giordano is highly active with the Northway Christian Church community. He assists with the kids' ministry there and helps out at worship services. Giordano also sings for Northway's high school and main service choirs.
This summer, Giordano will compete in the USA Diving World Trials meet in Florida. Giordano qualified to compete in the platform competition there.
If Giordano is successful at the World Trials meet, he may be selected to an international travel team.
In the fall, Giordano will do his diving on full scholarship at Florida State University. But his successes in diving are really just one aspect of his life.
"He's a very grounded young man," Misenhelter said. "I've coached for 12 years, and Dom is by far the best diver I have ever coached."