McKenzie Sanchez stepped onto the diving board for her second attempt at the University of Wisconsin Natatorium in Madison not knowing that she was about do something she’d never done in her entire career.
And a WIAA Division 1 State Diving Championship was on the line.
The Case High School senior, attempting a back one-and-a-half pike, came out a little early on the dive and her heels clipped the board on her way into the water.
“I didn’t even notice that I clipped the diving board until I looked at my heels after,” Sanchez said. “I just had to keep my composure; I couldn’t let that affect the rest of my dives.”
Case diving coach Dave Arvai wasn’t surprised that Sanchez bounced back.
“That could really mess with a diver’s psyche,” Arvai said. “McKenzie had never hit the board on a dive in any meet during her four years of high school, but she wasn’t ready to let that stop her today.”
She sure wasn’t. Sanchez bounced back with six consecutive high-scoring dives that put her back in contention for first place. Sanchez finished in second place with a final score of 493.45. Neenah’s Av Osero took first place for the third year in a row at 515.20.
Sanchez and Osero had nearly identical scores from a year ago when Sanchez finished at 494.45 and Osero finished at 511.50.
“It feels amazing that I finished in second place again,” Sanchez said. “I went out there and tried my best today; I’m really happy with the result.”
The most difficult aspect about a dive is the precision one has to have when executing an attempt. If the diver is too close to the board when he or she lands, they get deducted points. If the diver lands too far away from the board, points are also deducted. Arvai explained what it takes to earn a stellar score.
“A diver wants to get within about three feet of the board when the execute a dive,” Arvai said. “If you’re outside of that threshold by even a tiny margin, you’re going to lose points.”
Sanchez said she was most proud of her reverse one-and-a-half twister that she executed to near-perfection.
“That’s one of my newest dives,” Sanchez said. “I’ve only used that one a couple of times in competition so it was awesome to be able to pull it off today.”
So this is it. Sanchez’s illustrious career finally came to an end on Saturday and she finished top-five at state each of her four years of high school.
“I’m going to miss the atmosphere of high school diving,” Sanchez said. “There’s really nothing like it when you step out on that board, you feel like you’re in a world of your own.”
Arvai said Sanchez’s reign at Case benefited the entire program.
“Some of the underclassmen came to watch McKenzie dive today,” Arvai said. “She’s inspired a lot of these kids to become better and work as hard as possible.”
Horlick senior Amaya Jerdee also had a strong performance at Madison. The second-year diver placed 11th at 379.90, her best finish at state. Jerdee scored a 256.85 in 2017 and improved by 124 points this season.
“I’ve seen a lot from her,” Horlick diving coach Dallas O’Haver said. “She was only 15 points away from a podium finish and this was just her second year diving; I think it’s incredible.
“I hope that Amaya’s success encourages others to come out for the diving team next season. She was our only diver this year and to see what she did should serve as an inspiration to other girls at Horlick that are thinking about coming out for the team.”
According to O’Hayer, Jerdee had the most success on her first five dives, particularly her second and third attempts. Jerdee executed a back one somersault with one-and-a-half twists in her second dive and a back two somersault in her third dive.
“It was a great experience that I will forever miss,” Jerdee said. “I’m happy that I got the chance to compete twice at state.
“My biggest takeaway from this season was that I need to be confident in everything I do and never give up. I’m going to miss the family environment, as well as the laughs and bond that we all had.”