Jennings, East divers qualify for state

BLOOMINGTON — Jennings County’s Hailey Brown survived a late stumble, and Columbus East’s Maggie Gregory exceeded her seed to place fourth and fifth, respectively, in the Bloomington North Girls Diving Regional on Tuesday and qualify for the state finals.

Brown, who stayed near the leaders throughout the 11-dive competition, had her worst dive of the night on her next-to-last attempt that nearly knocked her out of the top five. But she rebounded with a solid dive on her final effort to finish with 354.55 points and hold off Gregory for fourth.

Gregory, a senior, was seeded 11th coming in, and after a rough start, put together a solid effort in her middle attempts to finish fifth with 346.55 points.

Early, Brown, a junior, positioned herself as a contender for the regional crown, posting a dive of 42.55 on her second attempt, one of the best of the night. But hopes at the title were dashed late. She recorded sub-30-point dives on three of her final four attempts.

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“I think I can dive a lot better than I did today, but I’m happy. I’m going to state,” said Brown, who became the first girls diver in school history to reach the state finals in back-to-back seasons.

Gregory totaled just 54 points through her first two dives. But she she rebounded with a 42.90 effort on her third attempt, was eighth overall after five dives and maintained her position the rest of the way.

“I started off pretty slow I think. I’m not going to lie, I was nervous at first,” Gregory said. “I felt like I had to do my personal best but then I just focused on having fun. I knew this could have been my last high school meet, and I just wanted to enjoy it.”

Columbus North’s Ella Anderson was trying to join Brown and Gregory in the state finals, but finished 19th with a 185.15 points on eight dives. Anderson was in position to make the cut to the final 12, but a slip on her next-to-last dive netted her zero points and ended her day early.

Moments before Anderson’s attempt, Castle’s Colleen Ray struck the board on a dive in a scary moment. Ray, who was second at the time, recovered to place seventh and qualify for the state finals, but Anderson admitted the incident shook her.

“I feel like I did pretty good up until that point. When she hit the board that kind of threw me off a little bit. That dive has never been super set in stone,” Anderson said. “But other than that, I feel like I did pretty good.”

One of four freshmen to compete in the 20-diver field, Anderson was thrilled to reach this level in her first year and is hopeful to go even further next year.

“I’m really hopeful to improve those dives that aren’t so great and next year come back really strong and possibly make it to state,” she said.

Mooresville’s Sadie Mills won the regional title with 407.00 points.

The diving preliminaries at the state finals will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday. The finals three dives will be within the swimming finals, which begin at 1 p.m.

Both Brown and Gregory are hopeful of strong showings.

“I’m just going to go, do my best and see what happens,” Brown said.

“This weekend I just need to focus on myself and focus on each dive and just focus on having fun and not stressing out about it,” Gregory said.