South/West Xtra: Chartiers Valley sophomore steps up in class and onto winner's podium

DIVING

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Chartiers Valley sophomore Maria Lohman is an elite diver in the WPIAL and beyond.

Having won the WPIAL Class AAA championship last Saturday at North Allegheny High School's pool, she will now focus on the "beyond."

It was the second championship for Lohman, who edged Bethel Park's Ashley Sams, a Pitt Aquatic Club teammate, by a close 467.60 to 463.05 margin.

Lohman's first title last year came at the Class AA level, but Chartiers Valley moved up to Class AAA this season and she was up to the task of going against the district's top divers.

Mohawk's McKenzie Stelter won the Class AA championship the previous day with a score of 419.85.

Lohman was already prepared to compete against the best. She recalled a meet against Bethel Park in Januray

"I was at Bethel a few weeks ago going against Ashley [Sams] at that meet. I broke my [personal] record -- it was a pretty big deal for me."

Lohman excels at the pike -- a difficult position in which the knees are straight and the body is bent at the waist.

"I just completed my normal list of dives," said Lohman. "Front one-and-a-half pike, back one-and-a-half pike, reverse one-and-a-half pike, inward one-and-a-half pike, front two-and-a-half pike, and back one-and-a-half- one-and-a-half."

Having moved from the stepping stone of tuck position dives to pike earned Lohman a 309.2 and first place against Bethel Park. Plus, Lohman really enjoyed facing Sams.

"It's always more fun competing against people you know," she said. "Your club team is like your own little family. You want to dive your best and have fun."

Chartiers Valley's diving coach Doe Krug explained that Lohman's elite status is owed in part to her long history with the sport.

"The down side [of starting divers in high school] is that you tend to teach kids quickly -- too quickly. It's because you have to do six different dives to be in the meet ... you tend to rush kids to do dives without setting up a strong foundation. Maria isn't in that situation."

Lohman chose to begin diving at the age of 9. She'd been influenced by her cousin, Amanda, who dived for both Upper St. Clair and the University of Michigan. So, Maria went to the Pitt Aquatic Club when she was 9. That's where she met Krug and took classes. Krug is actually a co-head coach of Pitt Aquatic Club diving alongside her husband, Julian.

Interestingly, Lohman did not come to diving with a gymnastics background, as many divers do. From early elementary school to age 12, Lohman played softball and was a pitcher for the Scott Township fast-pitch team.

But Lohman found she enjoyed the diving competition atmosphere more than the softball diamond. Now, with five years of diving experience built up, Lohman's favorite dive is the back one-and-a-half-one-and-a-half.

"You do one-and-a-half flips with one-and-a-half twists, so you end up diving into the water head first," described Lohman.

"She is a very good spinner," Krug said. "She's little but powerful and can spin very fast."

Krug said that Lohman's strongest dive categories were backs and reverses.

Although Lohman is gearing up for the PIAA championships, which will take place from March 13-16 at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Krug explained that she has been renamed to the Junior Elite squad program for the summer of 2013.

The JET program is a national program for talented divers. It features training camps and clinics that allow the best of the best to work together. This summer, Krug is hoping that JET will host clinics that will aid Lohman in finding a partner for synchronized diving.

"There are synchro events at [Speedo] nationals or bigger meets," Lohman explained. "Sometimes, some invitationals have it."

Even at Lohman's high level of competition, Krug explained that Lohman would always be working to improve.

"Mentality is a big part of diving," Lohman said. "You really have to buckle down and pretend it's practice, pretend there's no pressure. You have to block it out."

She certainly was able to do that last Saturday.

hsother


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