Ames’ James makes it three straight titles
Maggie James extended her own streak and set the Little Cyclones on course to continue another.
Posting the second highest score in state history of 532.05, James claimed her third straight state diving title at the Iowa Girls High School State Diving Championships on Friday at the Linda Bloom Natatorium.
The Ames junior fell just shy of the state record of 535.70 set by Fort Dodge’s Mary Fischbach in 1982, while putting the Little Cyclones in pole position for their fourth straight state title.
“My goal was to beat my old record by a couple points,” said James, who won last year’s title with a score of 512.80 – the third best tally in state history at the time. “I wasn’t expecting this at all.”
Iowa City West junior Jacintha Thomas took second at 5:13.15 and Little Cyclone senior Jess Misra wrapped up third with 480.20.
The Little Cyclones – also aided by a 15th-place finish from Rachel Canon (389.20), earned 38 points to hold an eight-point advantage over Iowa City West heading into today’s swimming events.
Though Ames diving coach Amy Pyle said Friday’s point total was a huge boost on more than just the scoreboard as the Little Cyclones take to the pool.
“It’s extremely critical because there’s obviously a lot of pressure especially on the seniors,” said Pyle. “If you have a little cushion it lets you relax a little bit. You can swim faster when you’re relaxed and it just gives you that head up mentally.”
James needed a little cushion herself to finally get settled after a slow start had her a bit on edge early. After missing her second dive – a forward two-and-a-half somersault for a score of 33.6 – the junior finally got in rhythm with her seventh attempt – a reverse one-and-a-half somersault that yielded a score of 56.4.
“I was a little nervous going into the meet,” said James. “After the first round the nerves calmed down a little bit and it got better.”
James carried that momentum into the final round breaking past the 60-point barrier twice. The junior capped her evening with her best score of the night – an inward one-and-a-half somersault that earned 62.40 – becoming just the fourth three-time champ in the process.
Though numbers – whether it be titles or total points – weren’t on the minds of James and Pyle, who were taking it one dive at a time.
“If you start focusing on the numbers, you lose the big picture,” said Pyle. “We never talked about a three-peat and we won’t talk about a four-peat. We’ll just do our thing and see what happens.”
West Des Moines Valley’s Morgan Rafferty claimed fourth at 461.30, while Hannah Brummel of Cedar Falls and Alex Aaberg of Iowa City West also reached the award stand with tallies of 434.00 and 432.20 respectively. The Tigers are in third with 26 points, while Cedar Falls (14) is two points ahead of Boone and Dowling Catholic is in sixth (9).
While James could become just the third diver in state history to claim four titles with another next November – she was all about enjoying the medal wrapped around her neck Friday night.
“I kind of just want to enjoy this moment,” said James. “I’ll think about it later.”
The swimming portion of the state championship starts today at noon. The doors to the Community Y open at 11 a.m.
Ames is vying for a fourth straight team title after scoring 274 points last year to fend off upstart Pleasant Valley (224). Valley had the last four-peat from 2005-2008.
James joined elite company with her third state diving title Friday. The only divers to claim three or more championships include Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s Meghan Sievertsen (2002-2004), Fort Dodge’s Fischbach (1979-1982) and Peggy Anderson of Dubuque Wahlert (1970-1972, including fall and spring titles in 1971).