Chagrin Falls Tigers’ junior Samantha Holtz has perfected her routine in between dives.
When the two-time Division II Northeast district diving champion was waiting for her turn for her next dive, she was off to the side doing some stretches while putting on her headphones so she could avoid looking to the scoreboard.
Holtz earned her third consecutive Ohio High School Athletic Association Division II Northeast district title when she scored 493.20 points in the one-meter, 11-round district meet and University School senior Cameron Bizjak scored 450.10 points and snagged his first Division II district diving title last Wednesday at the Robert F. Busbey Natatorium at Cleveland State University.
They move on to the OHSAA state meet this week at the Canton’s C.T. Branin Natatorium.
“It is definitely really nice,” said Holtz. “I love competing with these girls. It is such a great district and I am really excited to compete at the state meet.”
According to Holtz, she has grown to love the number three this season.
The Tigers’ junior already three-peated as the Chagrin Valley Conference diving champion earlier this year and now has added a third consecutive district diving title to her high school diving resume.
After becoming one of six state qualifiers last season, Holtz competed for one of eight state berths at this year’s district meet.
She may have had a little more margin for error but that did not alter her diving sheet.
“I tried to keep it the same as some of the other dive meets I had earlier in the season,” she said. “I had to switch it up for one meet at Perry a few weeks ago but I did not like the order then so I kept it the same as how I had it. I really love this order and I really mesh with it and it keeps me pretty confident through the entire meet.”
Holtz sat in first place after the first round when she scored 33.75 points on an inward dive and pike with a degree of difficulty of 1.5.
The Chagrin Falls’ junior never relinquished the lead and averaged 45.945 points in the next 10 rounds.
“It’s pretty difficult she said. “In my freshman year it was a challenge making it through these long meets and keeping consistency throughout all 11 dives but since it is my junior year, I have gotten used to it and kept my confidence up throughout these 11 dives.”
Holtz said she really started feeling like she gained momentum on her forward 1½ somersault double twist free dive with a degree of difficulty of 2.6 to score 53.50 points.
“That is one of my hardest dives,” she said. “Twisters and me are not the best friends so when I hit on Wednesday, it was definitely better than my normal one so I am pretty happy with that.”
In addition to Holtz, Hawken junior Christiana Reinike took third place with a score of 348.35 points and Kenston senior Mary Cowan placed fourth with 318.50 points to qualify for an appearance the Division II state meet.
For Reinike, it marked the second consecutive season she earned a state diving berth.
“It feels amazing,” the Hawks’ senior said. “What I feel most proud of is that I have been able to improve on my scores and my place each time and I think it really shows that the work I have put in practice and I am really proud of myself.”
Reinike took fifth place last season to qualify for the state meet but on Wednesday, finished only 11.6 points behind the runner-up sophomore Amedia Fallon from Canfield.
“I think what was most important was me focusing on the finishes and the take-offs,” Reinike said. “I think the dives I had down really well but I focused on not falling off the board and finishing strongly is what made
According to Reinike, she stuck the landing on her forward double somersault, tuck dive and that propelled her forward.
“I think I snapped out of it really quickly and I think I had a strong finish on it and I also think I was really good on my twisters,” she said.
Joining Holtz and Reinike on the podium was Cowan, who became a state qualifier in her first year of high school diving.
Having been a part of the 2022 state-qualifying Kenston girls’ gymnastic team, the Bombers’ senior decided she wanted a change of pace.
“I think I was not enjoying gymnastics as much and just really wanted to enjoy my senior year and try something new,” Cowan said. “That is what I did and I worked hard at it and I am having fun.”
Cowan said she had competed in diving as a recreational activity but had not trained for it as a serious sport.
The Kenston senior has become a student of the sport, becoming the first Bomber girl state qualifier since Mary O’Neill at the 2019 and 2020 state meets.
“It is definitely an honor because Kenston has had some really good divers in the past,” she said. “It is exciting to be a part of the same team they were.”
Cowan was in fifth place after the second round but moved into fourth place when she recorded 31.45 points on a backwards somersault straight dive with a degree of difficulty of 1.7.
Cowan joins not only a select handful of divers advancing to the state meet but will share the honor with her fellow American Flyers diving teammates Holtz and Reinike.
“It is really exciting,” she said. “I love the team and all of the practices and for my first year they welcomed me in and it is really exciting that all of us were able to qualify for the state meet.”
While several schools were represented in the girls’ district meet, University School ruled the boys’ competition when Bizjak snagged his first district title.
“It’s great,” Bizjak said. “It was definitely a goal of mine at the beginning of the season and I made a mental note of it. Just by putting in the work through these last four years and getting progressively better has been the key to success. Every day practicing in the summer is why I think I was able to win this district
In addition to Bizjak, sophomore Kyle Raymond earned his second consecutive berth to the state meet by scoring 338.85 points to take fifth place, followed by sophomore Beau Napolitano who came in eighth place by scoring 152.75 points and freshman Joseph Sullivan also qualified by scoring 239.95 points to finish in 12th place.
It marked the first time in University School history that the diving team qualified four divers for the state competition, previously only qualifying two.
“It’s really special just getting the whole team to go to the state meet in Canton,” said Raymond. “It feels really good to get all four of us there.”
After sitting in third place after the first round, Bizjak moved into first place after scoring 52.00 points on a forward 2½ somersault, pike with a degree of difficulty of 2.6 and sat atop the leaderboard for the rest of the
“I knew I had a chance to become the district champion but by adopting the me vs. me mindset when I just compete against myself and really not worry about anyone else helped me get better in the long run because I could just look at old dives and look at what I needed to do get better,” Bizjak said.
After taking 12th place at the district meet in his freshman season, Bizjak earned his first state berth in 2021 when he came in eighth then improved to second place in 2022 before finally standing atop the podium in first place this year.
Orange also had a diver earn a state berth when sophomore Samuel Williams came in ninth place by scoring 275.54 points, marking the second consecutive season the Lions will advance a male diver to Canton.
“It feels awesome,” Williams said. “I have always wanted to go the state meet and serve my school and just let everybody know how hard I worked for this.”
The Orange sophomore narrowly missed the cut for the state meet last season when he took ninth place, just 1.70 points from earning a state berth.
With 14 state berths available this year, Williams’ path was a little wider but was in 15th place after the third round.
He advanced into 10th place after the sixth round and alternated spots with Bay sophomore Bennett Bourn but seized ninth place when he tallied 26.10 points on a reverse dive, straight with a degree of difficulty of 1.8.
After competing in the Division II boys state meet on Tuesday, the four Preppers and Williams’ season will conclude.
Meanwhile, the trio of Holtz, Cowan and Reinike’s seasons will conclude after competing in the Division II girls’ state meet on Wednesday.
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