As the returning runner-up in a Division I state girls diving field that also featured the two-time defending champion, New Albany High School junior Estee Pryor said she felt no pressure in the state meet Feb. 22.
"Putting pressure on yourself is counterproductive," she said. "It takes away from the ability to have fun."
Pryor seemed to feel at home at Branin Natatorium in Canton, again placing second of 24 competitors with 521 points, behind Olentangy Liberty's Olivia Ball (553.85) in a field in which the top 16 divers all broke 415 points.
The duo shattered two records -- the state mark of 517.65 set by Upper Arlington's Abby Johnston in 2007 and Ball's state-meet record of 493.2 from two years ago. Ball also broke the pool record of 542.85 set by Canton McKinley's Ann Kelley in 1988.
Eagles freshman Nikki Watters finished third (486.1), boosting New Albany's goal to be the area's dominant diving program. On Feb. 20, junior David Dinsmore was third in the Division I boys competition.
The girls team scored 37 points to place 17th behind champion Cincinnati Ursuline (281) as 52 teams scored. Dinsmore led the boys team to 34th-place (16) behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (255) as 61 teams scored.
Pryor, who verbally committed to Ohio State earlier this season, said a good inward 1 1/2 and a back dive during which "I usually land on my face" within her first five dives laid a solid foundation. She said she was not upset about another second-place finish, partly because she, Ball and Watters are good friends.
"I trained hard for this and had fun. That's what it's about," Pryor said.
Watters said she had no particular expectations for her first state meet, adding a strong start helped calm any nerves.
"You never really know going into a meet how things will go, but I guess if you're just feeling pumped up and feel ready to dive, you're in good shape," Watters said. "(On my) first dive, I felt confident and I just knew it would be a good day."
Dinsmore scored 547 points as central Ohio took the second, third and fourth spots behind repeat winner Stephen Romanik of Macedonia Nordonia (565.1). Cameron Thatcher of Liberty was runner-up (558.55) and Clay White of Pickerington North was fourth (511.15).
Dinsmore finished fourth last year and said he used a back 2 1/2 and reverse 2 1/2 to pull into second entering the last of his 11 dives, but Thatcher executed what Dinsmore called "a high-difficulty dive" on his final attempt to secure second.
"I've competed against Stephen and Cameron forever. I'm very happy with where I placed," said Dinsmore, who will participate in a Youth Olympic Games qualifier in Guadalajara, Mexico from Friday, Feb. 28-Sunday, March 2. "I was happy with my dives. I knew going in that it would be competitive."
Dinsmore, Thatcher and White are teammates with the Ohio State Diving Club -- as are Ball, Pryor and Watters.
"A lot of our kids started in the lesson program at New Albany High School or the summer program at New Albany Country Club," Eagles diving coach Selene Kelley said. "That's one of the reasons we are so strong, and there are kids coming up. Every year, they keep coming. It's very exciting."
No Eagles swimmers participated in championship finals.
The girls 200-yard medley relay was 15th (1 minute, 50.04 seconds) with Grace Taylor, Taylor Berend, Jessica Zaper and Amanda Jenny. The girls 200 freestyle relay, with Berend, Jenny, Olivia Neff and Zaper, was 17th (1:40.22).
In the boys 100 butterfly, Carson Barnes was 19th (52.45) and Brendan Murphy was 23rd (53.28).
Boys team gets rematch with Pacers
Less than two weeks after a last-second loss to Delaware cost the boys basketball team the outright OCC-Capital Division title, the two squads meet in a winner-takes-all rubber match at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28, in a Division I district tournament second-round game at Delaware.
New Albany, which is 13-9 and seeded 18th, took a first-round bye. Tenth-seeded Delaware advanced with a 59-50 overtime victory over 22nd-seeded Dublin Jerome on Feb. 22. Khalil Iverson had 24 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and four blocks as the Pacers improved to 20-3.
The Eagles, who defeated the Pacers 57-40 on Dec. 10, ended the regular season with a 63-45 loss at Westerville Central on Feb. 18. That was three days after the Eagles lost 38-37 at Delaware on Iverson's last-second basket.
Both teams were 11-3 in the OCC-Capital, a game ahead of Worthington Kilbourne (10-4).
"When you're the 18th seed, you don't have a ton of places to go," coach Sam Davis said. "We're playing teams that if we play well, we can compete with them. We match up better with (the Pacers) than some of the teams that were on the board when we picked. We know them, obviously."
The winner plays eighth-seeded Westerville Central or 25th-seeded Westerville North in a district semifinal at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 5, at Olentangy Orange. That winner plays top-seeded Northland, 21st-seeded Teays Valley, 24th-seeded Hilliard Darby or 45th-seeded Hamilton Township in a district final March 8 at the Fairgrounds Coliseum.
Close loss ends girls team's season
As much as anything else about this season, girls basketball coach Jeff Blunt will remember the close losses.
Six of the Eagles' 10 losses were by four points or fewer, including a 40-39 setback to visiting Westland in the second round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 19. Tanesha Dixon scored all 10 of the Cougars' fourth-quarter points, capped by the tying and winning free throws with 14.8 seconds left.
Sophomore forward Meche'la Cobb had 13 points to lead 18th-seeded New Albany, which led 19th-seeded Westland 38-32 with less than four minutes to play.
"It's been a similar pattern through the year," Blunt said. "We're always in games, but we just can't close down games, whether it's (because of) a missed free throw or a missed assignment defensively or what have you. It continues to happen. It's the way the season progressed for us."
The Eagles finished 14-10 overall and 8-6 in the OCC-Capital, fourth behind Mount Vernon (13-1), Olentangy (12-2) and Delaware (9-5) and ahead of Big Walnut (6-8), Kilbourne (6-8), Orange (2-12) and Franklin Heights (0-14).
New Albany opened the postseason by defeating 27th-seeded Marysville 49-48 on Feb. 15 at home.
Cobb averaged 18 points and eight rebounds and was named first-team all-league. Junior forward Kyra Zuiderwig (4.8 points, 6 rebounds) was special mention all-league, and junior guard Taylor Snook (4.8 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals) was honorable mention.