Wesleyan freshmen Gardner claims dive championship

Wesleyan’s Abby Gardner

Wesleyan’s Abby Gardner

ATLANTA — Heading into Thursday’s state championship event, Abby Gardner and Jonathan Nye were still looking for a strong dive for the 11-dive competition.

In an email exchange with her Wesleyan coach, Gardner suggested a back flip two and a half twist she’d begun practicing with her year-round team. Nye admits it’s a dive with a high degree of difficulty, but Gardner’s execution gave her 54 points and allowed her to pull away for the Class A-AAAAA girls state diving championship.

“It really boosted her up,” Nye said. “She didn’t really start off really strong, but she finished really strong.”

Gardner claimed the title with a 458.20, 31.55 ahead of runner-up Ayanna Woods from Greenbrier.

“It was a lot of competition, there were really good people that I was scared of,” Gardner said.

Along with Woods, Gardner said watching Marist’s Sarah Jacobson upped the challenge.

“They dove really good,” she said.

Gardner dove better.

A year-round diver for the past two years with the Atlanta Dive Association, Gardner practices five days a week at Georgia Tech’s natatorium, the host site for the state diving championships. Her comfort on the board and in the setting helped mitigate a few of her nerves, but Gardner admits she was oddly anxious.

“I was more nervous for this, surprisingly,” Gardner said, noting she competes in national competitions with Atlanta Dive Association. “I thought I could do better when I am in the same zone as my competition.”

While Gardner exceeded her competition, the rest of the Wesleyan contingent also thrived. The Wolves entered the maximum four divers in the event and all placed in the the top 10. Kate McCahan took fourth, Maggie Dryden finished sixth and Taylor Panther finished ninth.

“That’s the first time we’ve ever done that,” Nye said of the four top-10 finishers. “I knew this year coming into it that we had a great, solid girls team.”

The strong opening gave the Wesleyan girls a big lead in the team standings with 57 points, well ahead of Marist’s 23 with the swimming events beginning today.

On the boys side, Wesleyan’s Tucker Cannon was the top Gwinnett finisher in 21st, one spot ahead of Lanier’s Anthony Albenese. J.T. Eigle of Wesleyan finished 34th. The boys winner, Pace’s Harrison Moncino, dominated the field by nearly 100 points, racking up 573.65. St. Pius X’s Grant Summers finished in second with 480.70.