Following the District 3 Girls Diving Championships on Saturday, Feb. 23, it appeared that Elizabethtown junior Kierstan Lentz’s season was over. Despite medaling for the third straight time in her career, she finished outside of the top-five in sixth place, failing to gain automatic entry to states.
Nearly a week later, everything changed. Lentz’s district score of 371.65 was high enough to qualify for an at-large spot in the PIAA Class 3A Girls Diving Championship at Bucknell University’s Kinney Natatorium on Friday, March 15. All of a sudden, she had another chance at states, the third time she’s competed there after previously taking part in 2017 and 2018.
“When I got the call from my coach, I was literally ecstatic,” Lentz said. “Opportunities like that don’t just come around, so it was a big deal. To come back here and actually make it to the final round boosted my confidence a lot. I was really upset because I didn’t know what went wrong at districts.”
Entering the competition with the 23rd seed (second-to-last overall), Lentz came out of the gates strong, scoring a 36.8 with a back pike on her first dive, the second highest of the field. The rest of the field fired back, however; many divers posted scores of 40 or higher the rest of the way, which Lentz wasn’t able to do.
“A lot of it is worrying about what you can control,” she said. “I know a lot of times I try to think about the other divers and what scores they’re getting. I just have to worry about myself and do the dives to the best of my ability.”
Still, Lentz kept herself in the mix. She had scores of 32.3, 36.3, 34.5, 34.5 and 27.2 during the remaining five preliminary dives, going back and forth between 10th and 13th in the overall standings. At the cutoff point, she was in 12th, sending her and 19 others to the semifinals.
After an even 33 on her seventh dive, Lentz needed a strong score during her eighth dive, the final one of the semifinals, to move on to the 16-diver finals. She came through and then some, nailing a front twister for a 37.4, which ended up as her best of the day. It also bumped her up to 11th overall heading into the finals.
“That’s my favorite dive,” Lentz said. “I think I work on it a lot more than my other dives. Getting it right is all about the hurdle, and getting that consistent before you worry about the dive is really important.”
Lentz’s next two dives (31.5 and 25.6) weren’t high enough to keep her in contention for a top-10 finish. But she came up big again on her last dive with a 35.1, putting her total score at 364.2 for the meet. She ultimately ended up in 14th place, the best of her career in states (she was 22nd in 2017 and 15th in 2018), and the third highest of the six District 3 divers in the field.
“I was really happy about that,” Lentz said. “My goal at meets is to always improve, even if it’s just one place. Seeing it on a piece of paper is really big for me. I wasn’t the happiest with how I finished as a freshman, so that’s just my big motivator.”
There will be a lot of pressure on Lentz to make it back to districts and states for a fourth straight time during her senior season. Plenty of colleges figure to be on hand to watch her progress (Lentz mentioned that she’s heard from the University of Maine, the University of Vermont and Youngstown State already), making it all the more stressful. But Lentz is motivated, especially after a solid performance given the way she got into states, and a full offseason of training could send her to even greater heights in 2020.
“Next season, my goal is to get a lot more DD (degree of difficulty), because that’s what I think I lack the most,” she said. “My coach has talked to me a lot about what I can do to get it higher. I have four dives I plan on getting for next season, which will be a big help in the college process.”