Photo: David McGregor Duluth's Erin Hembree twists in the air while performing a dive at the Gwinnett County Dive Championships on Saturday morning at the Mountian Park Aquatic Center.
STONE MOUNTAIN -- Lexi Sachse was already scheduled to get the swimming finals to Saturday's 2013 Gwinnett County Swimming and Diving Championships off to a good start by singing the national anthem.
But earlier in the day, the Mill Creek senior got the fortunes of the Hawks' girls team off to a flying start with her performance in the diving competition at the Mountain Park Aquatic Center by outdueling Peachtree Ridge's Anna Cate Miller and Duluth's Erin Hembree to take home the individual title.
Sasche bested her own school record with an 11-dive total of 340.80 to edge Miller (339.55) by just over a point and Hembree (336.75) by just over four points in one of the closest meets in recent memory.
But she says the key to her victory was not based on focusing on how close the meet results were, or even on the minute details of each dive.
"I knew it was definitely going to be a struggle to (finish) on top," Sasche said. "Honestly, ... it's about having a good time, not worrying about your dives. The last dive, I'd just seen my score for the meet for the first time. I looked at my score and I said, 'No matter what happens, it's been a great meet and a great season.'"
Having taken pressure off herself, a relaxed Sasche turned in a strong final dive, earning 28 points to push her score over the 340-point mark.
It was just enough after Miller and Hembree came up just short with their finals dives, which make Sachse Mill Creek's first girls county diving champion.
And she admits she was a lot more emotional after her final dive than before it.
"I looked at the score for Anna Cate, and I literally almost started crying right then and there," Sachse said. "Then I waited for Erin's score, and I just broke down and started bawling. I was hoping it would come out this way. Last year, I was sixth in the county, and I wanted to pull it up and support my school."
Sachse's performance definitely gave the Hawks a boost as they set out to defend their county championship, which they won for the first time last year.
"It's a tremendous lift for our girls team," Mill Creek assistant coach Kevin Rodgers said. "I know the girls will be excited to hear the news (later Saturday) afternoon as they go to their meet. The girls swam well Friday night, and this just tops it to where now, the girls are in a spot to finish the drill."
Also finishing the drill in Saturday's diving competition was Mountain View's Katie Jansen, who posted a score of 300.35 -- high enough to qualify for next month's Class AAAAAA state meet -- to finish in fourth place.
Dacula's Molly Crowe rounded out the top five with a score of 269.15, just .75 of a point away from a state qualifying score.