Diving is one of the least contested of all Virginia High School League athletic events, but its impact on the past two state swim and drive championships has been huge. And not in a good way for Lafayette's boys team.
For the second consecutive year, the Rams outscored Hidden Valley in the swimming events, only to lose a state title to the Roanoke school because it had a diving entrant. Few other of the state's smaller schools had one.
Only six schools entered a total of seven divers in the Group 3A state meet, making it the least contested individual event. The 15 points the Hidden Valley diver received for finishing fourth among that group lifted his school to the title over Lafayette — 233-222 points — although the 12 he would've gotten for simply entering and finishing seventh would've been enough.
Hidden Valley used diving points to edge Lafayette by 9.5 points in the 2013 AA state meet. The event's inclusion in the state meet and its impact are a source of tremendous annoyance for Lafayette stars Carter Kale and Brett Huckstep.
"It makes me mad that we've lost by diving points two years in a row," said Huckstep, who swam on Lafayette's winning 200 medley relay.
Kale, the 500 freestyle winner, said, "The only thing swimming and diving have in common is that they're done in the water. To be beaten out by diving, when only six schools have it and everyone has swimming, isn't fair.
"We're not physically allowed to have a diving team. We have a diver at the school we could've used, but we couldn't because the sport is unfunded."
Lafayette athletic director Dan Barner said Bay Rivers District schools have chosen not to have diving because access to a pool with a diving well is not readily available to most. He said that is the case with most schools below the state 6A and 5A levels, and state meet numbers back him up.
Fifty-one boys and girls entered the 6A and 5A meets, although Barner says that was with some difficulty because they had to go to a different pool than their state-meet swimmers to contest the event.
"Divers are almost totally separated from their swim teams," Barner said. "They don't practice together."
Only 26 divers entered the 4A, 3A and 2A state meets or an average of 4.3 per competition. Only one girl entered in 4A and one boy in 2A, so both were automatically state champions.
No individual swimming event in 3A boys had fewer than 10 participants. So, why make diving a scored event in state swim meets?
Virginia High School League assistant director Tom Dolan says it's among the 22 identified events in the National Federation of State High School Associations handbook for a swim and dive meet. He said the schools that do not have diving are doing so by choice, similar to those who choose not to compete in the pole vault in track and field.
Barner said he is considering proposing the removal of diving as a points event in state swim meets to the VHSL. Dolan said it would not be in violation of NFHS rules to remove diving, but added he doubts a move to remove it would pass among VHSL membership.
So, for Lafayette to win a state title it will just have to outscore schools like Hidden Valley more in swimming than it has. Kale says that's the plan.
"We've got good swimmers coming in and good ones coming back, so we're just going to make a push to get past their diving points and get into first place," he said.
More state swimming
There were a couple of omissions from our state swim and dive agate that ran in Monday's Sports section. Mackenzie Katzer of Grafton finished sixth in the girls 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:12.99.
Also, a disqualification in the girls 200 individual medley changed the results as originally listed. Area swimmers moving up in the order were Tabb's Kate Maw (2nd), Grafton's Maddy Rymer (6th) and Tabb's Melissa Zhu (7th).
Bay Rivers swimmers enjoyed a big day in Christiansburg, with Whitney Reifler's Grafton boys winning the 4A state title and Molly Sandling's Jamestown girls winning the 4A crown.
O'Brien can be reached by phone at 757-247-4963.