Butler's Weiland eyeing states

BUTLER TWP — Claire Weiland used last year as a stepping stone to what she hopes are bigger and better things.

The Butler diver placed ninth at the WPIAL Class AAA Championship meet as a freshman in February of last year. Only one other freshman, Bethel Park's Brionna Litwin (eighth), ended up in the top 10.
“I was a little disappointed because I was hoping to do better,” she said, “but ninth for a freshman is still pretty good.”
Weiland, who reached scores of 200-plus several times this season, hopes to take another step forward at the district championship meet, which takes place Saturday at North Allegheny High School.
“I want to qualify for states,” she said. “I have to finish in the top six to do that. I'm stronger this year with my inward dives and reverses. I feel confident and am just focusing on what I need to do Saturday.”
“Just getting to WPIALs as a freshman is a good experience,” said Butler coach Ken Bedford. “Claire got that last year. She looks good in practice and is ready for this.”
Also competing this weekend for Butler will be sophomore Emmalee Keep and freshman Julianna DiPippa.
Seneca Valley will be represented by freshman Alex Smithco.
“I expected her to do well at the start of the season,” said SV coach Jesse Rakovan, “but she has also improved throughout the year. Her degree of difficulty has gone up in all of her dives and she looks great on the board.”
In the Class AA meet, being held Friday at South Park High School, Mars freshmen Taylor Hockenberry and Isabel Wroblewski will be taking to the board.
Hockenberry recently placed second at the MAC meet.
“She didn't even have her best meet, but still finished high,” said Planet coach Maria Misenhelter. “She didn't decide to dive this season until August, but has great strength, flexibility and body control. That comes from her years at X-Cel Gymnastics. She is way ahead of the game. If all goes well, she should finish between second and fourth at WPIALs.”
Since the WPIAL sends its top nine divers in Class AA to the state meet, that caliber of performance would extend Hockenberry's season.
Wroblewski also has a chance to advance, according to Misenhelter.
“She had no diving experience before this year, but is a very hard worker and takes correction very well,” she said. “She has a chance.”
In Class AA, Knoch sophomore Ben Lowery is seeded third with a score of 224.25. While this is his first year of varsity diving, he is no stranger to the sport.
Lowery began diving at Butler Country Club when he was in the second grade. Soon after, he began training with his current coach Ken Bedford.
“Coach Bedford told me before the (high school) season that this wasn't summer diving,” said Lowery. “He said I had to step up and I told him I was ready.”
Lowery's natural ability has helped him become one of the better divers in the WPIAL.
“His power is unbelievable,” said Bedford. “He is so strong and has been able to convert that to his dives.”
Lowery's attitude toward Friday's competition should help his chances of doing well.
“My goal is to give it all I got and have fun,” he said.
Two of Lowery's teammates, sophomores Brandon Grumski and Shane Frishkorn, have also qualified for the WPIAL meet.
Butler sophomore Lev McCollough will strive to improve on his 25th-place finish as a freshman. In Bedford's mind, there is no reason he shouldn't do just that at the Class AAA meet.
“Lev's form has always been good, but he is now stronger and has become more consistent,” he said.
“I'm hoping to make the finals (top 16),” McCollough said. “I showed improvement at the start of this season and have learned a lot of new dives. I've had a lot of scores in the 200s.”