CEDAR FALLS — The climb wasn’t far for Ashton Syharath. In fact, it was two steps up.
After back-to-back third-place finishes at the Mississippi Valley Conference diving championships in 2017 and 2018, Syharath claimed first Thursday at Holmes Middle School, besting a field of 28 divers, including four ranked among the state’s top 10.
“It was awesome. Competing against the best divers gets you to do your best and push yourself to hit every dive,” Syharath said. “I just loved the competition today. It was a great day.”
Syharath won despite limited workouts since injuring herself last Saturday at the Muscatine Invitational. The senior slipped on an attempted dive and hyper-extended her knees.
“I had to stop after five dives,” Syharath said. “But I’ve been strengthening them and taping them, so it was good.”
Syharath led from start to finish, finishing with an 11-dive total of 474.75 points, which was just off her season-best score of 485.80 set at Linn-Mar on Sept. 21. She held a 36-point advantage (236.3-200.75) after five dives and increased that lead to 47.4 points after eight dives and the second break.
Among the divers pushing Syharath was long-time rival Lauren Kimball of Waterloo Swim, who finished as runner-up.
“A fantastic competitor,” Kimball said of Syharath. “Watching her dive really motivates me. I think it is both ways. I motivated her, and she motivates me.”
Kimball rallied from fourth after five dives to third after eight before passing Linn-Mar’s Megan Norris for second and finishing with 443.85 points. Norris was one of three Lions to finish in the top six.
“Just focused on myself and not the other divers,” Kimball said. “There were amazing divers here tonight. But I was just focusing on myself and thinking about what I had to do to get there.
“I know I didn’t hit any of my best dives, but just consistency in all of them is what got me up there.”
Waterloo Swim freshman Avery Kimball took ninth with a total of 358.9, while Cedar Falls’ Alli Gray was 13th with 334.55.
The next competition comes in two weeks at regionals.
Individual leaders — 1. Ashton Syharath (Cedar Falls), 475.75, 2. Lauren Kimball (Waterloo), 443.85, 3. Megan Norris (Linn-Mar), 421.85, 4. Jenna Carney (Linn-Mar), 413.9, 5. Sam Klein (Iowa City West), 389.1, 6. Reese Miller (Linn-Mar), 378.25, 7. Gabby Kroeze (C.R. Jefferson), 373.85, 8. Austyn Goodale (Iowa City West), 366.1, 9. Avery Hogan (Waterloo), 358.9, 10. Maria Kircher (Dubuque Wahlert), 354.95.
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