Cougars’ Rader, Montgomery claim HHC diving titles

GREENFIELD — Maci Montgomery was too focused on the present to remember the past in any specific detail, and her condition was contagious.

When asked late Thursday night how she finished in last year’s Hoosier Heritage Conference Diving Championships, the Greenfield-Central senior playfully offered a guess. Maybe fifth? Possibly sixth?

“I’m not really positive about that,” Montgomery laughed with a smile. “I forget everything from last year.”

She wasn’t alone. Cougars’ veteran diving coach Duane Knecht couldn’t quite recall his diver’s placement either, but in the end, it didn’t matter as the evening pushed toward 11 p.m. at the Greenfield-Central Aquatic Center.

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With an 11-dive score of 371.2, Montgomery effectively washed away the past — and her fourth-place finale in 2017 — to win her first career HHC diving title.

Combining with defending diving champion Benjamin Rader of Greenfield-Central, the duo completed the clean sweep and provided the Cougars with a healthy boost heading into today’s swimming portion of the HHC meet.

More importantly, they had fun, achieving the unforgettable.

“That’s how I dive the best, having fun. I don’t dive well when I’m aiming for something,” Rader said. “I don’t try to come into a meet and try to beat people and a score or get a record. I just try to come in and have fun and do my best and see what happens.”

By sticking to his philosophy, Rader, a senior, checked off all three of his unintentional goals, posting a school-record 11-dive score of 500.55 to best his previous mark of 473.65, which he set at last season’s sectional meet.

Rader, a two-time state qualifier, captured his first HHC title in 2017 with a strong three-dive championship round showing to get past Yorktown’s Joey Ulrich 432.05-425.35.

As expected the duo, once again, battled for supremacy Thursday. Rader carried a 228.45-188.70 lead after the five-dive preliminary round. Ulrich, a sophomore, pulled closer after the three-dive semifinals 347.50-305.20.

Ulrich took the lead in the finals after scoring a 52.5 on his first dive, but Rader, who placed 16th at the Indiana High School Athletic Association state meet in Indianapolis last February, left no doubt with a final three-dive score of 153.05.

“He was right behind Ben last year, so we knew whoever had the best night was probably going to win,” Knecht said. “Ben was really solid tonight. He missed very little, and Joey’s last round was loaded up with high degree of difficulty. I knew Ben was going to have to hit his dives to stay above him.”

Rader surpassed his own expectations on his final two dives, increasing his degree of difficulty to earn a 55.9 and a 58.9, respectively, to beat Ulrich, who finished with a total of 439.90.

“Those dives are really fun to throw. It’s challenging,” Rader remarked on his final push. “The first one, the double twister, I learned that about five months ago. It takes multiple years to get a dive mastered, so I started that a few months ago. And the inward 2.5, I started that at the beginning of the season. That one is really new. I scored more on that than I thought I would.”

For Montgomery, expectations are high after reaching the state meet and placing 25th overall as a junior. Yet, for the former gymnast turned diver, nothing is taken for granted.

Spending five years in competitive gymnastics, Montgomery shifted her pursuits and started diving three years ago, but her inexperience hasn’t stunted her rapid progression.

“For weeks now, I’ve told Maci, anywhere between five girls could win this meet. But she is a consistent diver and didn’t really miss anything. She didn’t nail anything all night either, but she was very consistent,” Knecht said. “That can get you first place in this sport.”

Montgomery established her intentions early with a 174.35-159.9 margin over Delta’s Taylor Shaw after the preliminaries. Pendleton Heights’ Sophie Fonacier catapulted to second behind Montgomery after the semifinals, trailing the Cougar by only 14 points.

“The hardest part was once you get the lead, it’s keeping it instead of saying OK, I’m going to keep climbing toward the top,” Montgomery said. “I knew in the back of head where this person was behind me and what I needed to do. That focus and concentration really helped me out.”

Montgomery didn’t score fewer than 35 points on any of her three final dives to stay in front of Fonacier, who took second with 344.5. New Palestine’s Karen Shriver, a sophomore, was third with 334.2 points.

“It feels really great to come from where I placed last year to winning. It feels amazing just knowing the progress I’ve made,” Montgomery said. “Really pushing myself has worked for me, so it’s a great feeling.”

Scoreline

Hoosier Heritage Conference Diving Championships

Boys Final Results

1. Benjamin Rader, Greenfield-Central;500.55

2. Joey Ulrich, Yorktown;439.90

3. Sam Bennett, Delta;363.60

4. Jordan Spearman, Mt. Vernon;340.60

5. Colby Hopkins, Yorktown;280.65

6. Cooper Deno, Greenfield-Central;273.55

7. Cameron Baker, Shelbyville;259.25

8. Ryan Larner, Shelbyville;239.60

9. Brevan Graham, Pendleton Heights;204.55

10. Henry Stratman, Greenfield-Central;198.35

11. Austin Lines, New Palestine;184.05

12. Darrell Drake, New Palestine;29.20

Girls Final Results

1. Maci Montgomery, Greenfield-Central;371.2

2. Sophie Fonacier, Pendleton Heights;344.5

3. Karen Shriver, New Palestine;334.2

4. Breanna Evans, Delta;329.95

5. Halle Strege, Mt. Vernon;326.75

6. Taylor Shaw, Delta;300

7. Gracesyn Thomas, Mt. Vernon;286.35

8. Elayna Sisson, Pendleton Heights;285.6

9. Kaylen Stewart, Mt. Vernon;279.7

10. Maddie Cougill, Pendleton Heights;271.1

11. Lili Silividi, Yorktown;260.25

12. Natalie Moulton, Yorktown;247.75

13. Adelyn Parsley, Shelbyville;217.9

14. Rebekah Carpenter, Yorktown;209.95

15. Alyssa Reiman, New Palestine;207

16. Meghan Brown, Greenfield-Central;204.6

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Rich Torres is sports editor at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at rtorres@greenfieldreporter.com or 317-477-3227.