North Xtra: North Allegheny diver seeking WPIAL honors

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Being a diver at North Allegheny High School is not exactly conducive to record-breaking.

The program produced one of the best divers in state history in Connor Kuremsky. By the time Kuremsky graduated in 2011 he owned all the North Allegheny records among many more throughout the state.

He's now a junior at Stanford University and earned All-American status as a sophomore last year.

Chances to break records come few and far between for North Allegheny divers. One of those opportunities arose two weeks ago in a dual meet at Moon Area High School.

After his fourth of six dives, Andrew Doerfler noticed the record board at Moon, directly behind the diving board. It showed a 2013 record of 274 from one of his rivals, North Hills' Noah Bostick. With two dives left, Doerfler was within reach of the pool record.

"Quite frankly we have not paid attention to records at other pools," North Allegheny diving coach Patti McClure said. "Records had not been a focus, but he just happened to look. The record board was right behind the diving board. He told me 'I am going to go for it.' That is the first time I have heard him say that."

If he was going to break it, it wouldn't be easy. For one he was on the road at an unfamiliar pool on an unfamiliar board. In addition to that, his last two dives happened to be two new dives that Doerfler had never before attempted in a meet.

"I was really nervous about it," Doerfler recalled. "I was shaking on the edge of the board, it was crazy but my whole team was cheering for me. I scavenged enough courage to do the dives."

Doerfler looked right at home in executing both dives and finished with a six-dive score of 276.40 to set a Moon pool record.

"I got the record -- it was exciting, really exciting," Doerfler said. "It was the first record I ever got."

Early in his diving career, Doerfler's potential was evident. McClure, in her 13th year as diving coach at North Allegheny, noticed Doerfler when he was in the sixth grade participating in her diving intramural program.

But Doerfler was also playing football and he decided to stop diving and focus on football. Doerfler played football in seventh and eighth grade but after suffering three documented concussions -- and perhaps even more undocumented -- he abandoned the sport.

He rejoined the North Allegheny diving team as a freshman. For Doerfler, diving was a lot like riding a bike.

"I was a gymnast before I did any sport," Doerfler said. "I always had that natural ability to know where my body is and make it get to where it needs to be. Picking up diving again, to be honest, was pretty simplistic. There were things I definitely had to work on but I enjoyed working at it."

By his sophomore year he finished seventh at the WPIAL Class AAA championships, qualifying for states. At the PIAA championships he finished 17th out of 32 divers, just missing the 16-person finals by one spot and a few points.

"The first time he was out at states he just missed the finals," McClure said. "At states for the first time, you could be awestruck. It is overwhelming, but he had a really good showing."

After two years at North Allegheny High School, Doerfler transferred to a performing arts charter school -- Lincoln Park in Midland, Beaver County -- for this school year. Lincoln Park does not have a swimming program so Doerfler, a McCandless resident, continues to compete for North Allegheny.

On Saturday North Allegheny will play host to the WPIAL Class AAA diving championships for the third consecutive year. The boys diving will begin at 10 a.m. The top contenders are North Hills' Bostick, Penn-Trafford sophomore Joe Ference, Mt. Lebanon junior Cary Johns and Doerfler.

At the North Allegheny diving invitational earlier this year -- a meet that Bostick did not attend -- Ference took first with Doerfler finishing second.

"Competition is good," Doerfler said. "Cary and Joe are in a good position to place high at WPIALs and states and same with Noah. If all goes well, I can get up there, too."

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