One year after snow ravaged the swim and dive season for local high schools, the one-day postponement of a pair of Virginia district meets has cost a pair of Virginia AAA diving champions the chance to defend their titles.
The moment Robinson junior Cory Bowersox heard the Concorde District meet scheduled for Jan. 12 had been pushed back due to snow, the defending boys’ state diving champion feared the worst. Along with club diving teammate Kelli Stockton — the reigning girls’ state champion and a senior at Fairfax High — Bowersox was headed to Iowa City the following morning to compete in the USA Diving Winter Nationals.
Following stellar individual performances that far exceeded either diver’s expectations, the two 2010 All-Mets advanced to the second weekend of competition, preventing them from making it home in time for the AAA Northern Region meet. As a result, neither Bowersox nor Stockton was able to complete the 11-dive format required for state meet qualification, and after their appeal was denied by the Virginia High School Athletic Association, neither will be allowed to compete at Saturday’s state championship meet in Virginia Beach.
“I was pretty upset about it,” Stockton said. “I figured there was still a slim chance that I might be able to dive at states, but even if I couldn’t, if I did well at nationals, it would be worth missing.”
In the first 10-meter platform competition of her career, Stockton reached the finals and placed ninth overall to qualify for the 2012 Olympic trials while Bowersox finished eighth in the one-meter competition to qualify for the USA Diving World Championship trials in May.
When Bowersox and Stockton advanced to the second weekend of competition, Fairfax and Robinson athletic directors Tim Gordon and Marty Riddle filed a joint appeal to request a waiver that would allow the two divers to compete. Citing the specific qualification requirements in the VHSL Handbook, state officials said they could find no way to grant an exception.
“It’s very unfortunate, and I feel for them,” said VHSL Executive Director Ken Tilley. “However, in spite of their obvious talent and abilities, they were not in compliance with the standard requirements for advancing to the state competition. We don’t have the option to grant exceptions and if you open the door for this reason, is it fair to all the other students who met the criteria and advanced using the prescribed format?”
In order to qualify for the state meet, divers much eclipse set score totals from a combination of 11 dives. During regular season meets, divers only perform six dives. Whereas swimmers can qualify for the state meet by meeting specific state time requirements during any regular season meet, divers must compete in the 11-dive format only offered at districts and regionals. Despite the fact that Bowersox eclipsed the 11-dive state qualifying point total (350) with 374.6 points in a six-dive meet, both he and Stockton failed to compete in an 11-dive format meet, making them ineligible.
For Robinson, which had won seven consecutive state titles before finishing fourth in 2011, losing Bowersox is a serious blow to the team’s championship aspirations.
“I kind of feel like I let them down because I know they rely on me and I could have helped them out a lot,” said Bowersox, whose 540.25 point total set a state meet record last season. “But it’s definitely worse for Kelli. At least I have one more year. But for future divers – because there will be kids coming up who will be in a similar situation – there needs to be a rule change.”
As difficult as it will be to miss the opportunity to compete with their respective teams this weekend, both divers are encouraged by their performances at Nationals and are looking ahead to next year.
“As much as I would’ve loved to defend my title, I think making Olympic trials is so much more than I ever would have expected,” said Stockton, who will dive for Virginia Tech next season. “It’s going to help me a lot more in the long run, so I definitely feel it was the right decision.”