Photo: David McGregor Parkview's Sean Piner completes a dive during the GHSA state dive finals on Friday at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center. Piner finshed second.
ATLANTA -- Sean Piner didn't land where he wanted to Friday, but four years after he started down his diving path, the Parkview senior still smiled as he stood on the podium.
For the third year, Piner stood on the Class AAAAA state podium in the runner-up position with Alpharetta's Jack Nyquist above him. It took a record-setting performance from the Raider's junior to best Piner for the third straight time, but even before Nyquist made his final turn he had secured the state's top spot. He out-scored Piner 629.80 to 541.75.
"I could have done better, that's for sure," Piner said after accepting his medal. "I missed one big dive in the middle."
And Nyquist never did.
Heading into the final three dives, 37 points separated Piner and Nyquist, but from there the now-three-time state champion and state record holder started to pull away, capping his day with a stunning dive that pushed him over 600 for the meet.
"Jack had a perfect day and that's what it came down to," Piner said.
But even with after a third consecutive runner-up, Piner enjoyed telling his path to diving and a college career at Louisville.
A baseball player, Piner was encouraged to begin diving after a coach saw him at a pool the summer before his freshman year. By season's end, Piner finished eighth at the state meet. He followed that up with county titles and his state finishes. He quit baseball to dive year-round and never regretted it. He set high goals as a freshman that included setting the state record and winning state. He came up short, but not by much.
"I wanted to win," Piner said. "I set all the highest goals."
Brookwood's Stephen Jou was the next highest Gwinnett finisher, taking fifth. He was followed by Parkview's Ben Warren (sixth) and Chris Yenney (seventh). Grayson's Jeremy Rutledge finished eighth, Parkview's Connor Rosenthal finished 11th, Grayson's Paul Anderson took 12th, Mill Creek's Zach Higashhi finished 14th and Duluth's Paul Mcguffin rounded out the placers in 16th.
Parkview's Tabitha Banks was the highest girls finisher from Gwinnett, taking sixth in the morning event. The county champion finished with a 425.30, not too far removed from Colquitt County champion Elizabeth Kirkland's 486.80.
And just like in the county meet, Brookwood's Emma Weisel finished right behind Banks in seventh with a 403.30.
The remaining Gwinnett girls placers included Brookwood's Marena Kardatzke (10th), Duluth's Kelsey Carniglia (11th), Collins Hill's Nicole Hermansen (12th) and Peachtree Ridge's Anna Cate Miller (15th).
But the girls gave way to Piner and his third battle with Nyquist to end the day. Piner's final high school dive drew big applause as he came up for the last time as Panther. When Nyquist finished, Piner was in line to congratulate him.
"I can't complain too much," Piner said.