East Xtra: Penn-Trafford diver still making progress

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Unannounced, Joey Ference reported to the Penn-Trafford High School pool last year and told diving coach Mark Martini that he wanted to dive.

"He just showed up," Martini recalled. "He said he thought he could do it."

Ference was right, he could do it. As a freshman last year he qualified for the WPIAL championships, placing 12th.

Martini saw the potential and suggested that with offseason training, Ference could be even better.

Martini was also right.

After a summer spent training, Ference has emerged as a breakout star this season. He shattered the Penn-Trafford six-dive school record with a score of 300.4.

At the Westmoreland County Coaches Association meet earlier this month, Ference took the title, winning easily with a score of 473.85, finishing ahead of the second-place finisher by nearly 100 points. Ference was just short of the county meet record of 476.90 set in 2008 by Franklin Regional's Ryan Koter.

Ference's diving win at the county meet was the first in program history for a Penn-Trafford team that has been participating in the meet for a decade.

"Last year was the first year he ever dived," Martini said. "He trained really hard after the season, he has really improved a lot. Joey is a really hard worker."

Attention now turns to the WPIAL Class AAA diving championships that will take place at North Allegheny Feb. 22.

Ference finished with a score of 294.40 last year to take 12th place. There are five divers returning this season who finished better than Ference last season but with his progression from last season, Ference is certainly a contender.

Other contenders include North Hills senior Noah Bostick, North Allegheny junior Andrew Doerfler and Mt. Lebanon junior Cary Johns. Bostick earned silver last season.

"He knows he is not favored to win. His goal is to do well," Martini said. "I think the kid from North Hills, Noah Bostick, is probably favored. He is very good. We hope Joey can qualify for states."

The top six finishers qualify for the PIAA championships.

At the WPIAL championships -- and perhaps the PIAA championships if he qualifies -- Ference will take aim at the Penn-Trafford 11-dive record. At dual meets, divers complete six dives, while at large invitationals such as the WPIAL and state meets, divers complete 11 dives. Ference has come within six points of the program's 11-dive record.

"Last year Joey started a little slow but by WPIALs, he kept getting better and better," Martini said. "He works hard. Joey is a little bit of a natural."

Martini describes Ference's diving style as graceful and said Ference is one of the most humble people one will meet. Ference's progression from his freshman to sophomore year has even taken his coach by surprise.

"I thought he could improve," said Martini now in his 25th year as Penn-Trafford diving coach. "I think he improved a lot more than I thought he would. He worked at it really hard."

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