Parkview divers make a splash

ATLANTA -- For his second year diving, Sean Piner eclipsed even his expectation.

The Parkview sophomore returned to the state meet after an eighth-place finish a year ago, hoping to crack the top five.

He did more than crack it.

Piner racked up 445.90 points on his way to a state runner-up finish in the Class AAAAA boys state diving championship, second only to a freshman from Alpharetta's Jack Nyquist.

"Today I felt like I did really good," Piner said. "A lot better than in the past.

"Before the meet I would have been happy with a top 5. That was my goal at the beginning of the year. I did a lot better than that though."

Gwinnett finishers behind Piner included Dacula's Hunter Ferrer in sixth, Mill Creek's Seth Burgmeier in seventh, Brookwood's Garrett Boss in eighth, Parkview's Rory Martin in ninth, Brookwood's Taylor Brown in 10th, Collins Hill's Brad Miller and Norcross' Rick Krause tied for 12th and Peachtree Ridge's Michael Russell in 14th.

Piner wasn't the only Parkview diver to shine on the state-wide stage.

In the girls meet, Parkview's Tabitha Banks learned her lesson early enough to recover and finish top among Gwinnett divers.

The Parkview sophomore started slowly in the Class AAAAA girls state dive meet more out of caution than nerves.

"Mentally, I kind of said I need to be careful," Banks said. "That was the death of my second dive."

The second dive earned her an overall low score and put her behind over the final nine dives. She reached the first round of cuts, when the field went down to 20 divers, in 12th place.

But she kept fighting and her score kept climbing and she topped her freshman year sixth state place with fifth place finish and a score of 369.55.

Florida State commit Kelsey Goodman of Colquitt County took the title easily with 517.95 points, setting a new Marist pool record.

"They got better," Banks said of her dives. "I just had to forget about it and get ready for the next dive."

Moving on from disappointment became the theme for Gwinnett divers in Wednesday's championships.

After Banks' lackluster start, Gwinnett County champion Sara Halliburton took an even bigger hit.

The Duluth senior, who also started slow in her final meet, seemed to find her rhythm in the middle dives. She sat in eighth place for the first round of cuts after five dives, but her eighth dive was disqualified when the judges ruled she did not perform it correctly.

Even following the meet, Halliburton was not completely clear on the judges reasons.

"I don't think I'll ever understand why I failed," an upbeat Halliburton said. "This is the most stressful meet I have gone through in high school diving."

Despite the incorrect dive, Halliburton survived the second cuts and finished with 325.20 points in 11th place and was fourth among Gwinnett County divers.

Brookwood's Chole Cotter finished eighth, Grayson's Darcie O'Brien 10th, Peachtree Ridge's Emily Yoder 14th and Brookwood's Jessica Tailhardt 15th.

Only Dacula's Brittany Swanson failed to crack the final 16 and Tailhardt made it only after the judges recalculated the scores during the final three dives.

Halliburton, though disappointed in her finish, opted to think about her final two dives where she slid up the final rankings.

"(Making the top 16) was surprising," Halliburton said. "In the end the only thing that matters is what my coach thinks and what I think."

What Parkview's Banks thinks is she can improve and she has two more years to try.

"It could have been better," Banks said. "Especially considering the beginning."