LEWISBURG – Three weeks ago, it looked like Kierstan Lentz's season was over.
The Elizabethtown diver medaled at the District Three Class 3A championships, but a sixth-place finish meant the junior didn't qualify for states. Fast forward to Friday afternoon and Lentz found herself in the finals of the PIAA diving championships at Bucknell.
After 11 rounds, Lentz's score of 364.20 put her 14th overall, the highest finish of the three Lancaster-Lebanon League girls who competed and third among the divers who qualified from District Three.
Manheim Township's Shannon O'Hara and McCaskey's Evie Altland both made it through the semifinals before the field was cut to the top 16 divers. O'Hara finished 17th overall with a score of 256.05, while Altland was 20th with a score of 238.65.
North Penn's Paige Burrell won gold with a total of 492.20 points, finishing atop the leader board for the third-straight year – including being named co-champion with teammate Meghan Wenzel last year.
Wenzel took silver on Friday and North Penn completed the sweep with Kianna Yancey taking bronze and Madalyn Freece finishing fourth.
The road to Lentz's third-straight PIAA appearance started with a phone call that left her “literally ecstatic.”
“I couldn't believe it because opportunities like that don't just come around, so it was a big deal,” admitted Lentz. “To come back here and actually make it to the final round, I think that just boosted my confidence a lot because I was really upset and I didn't know really what went wrong and what happened at districts.”
Using that as extra motivation, Lentz pushed her way up to 11th in the competition. She really made her mark in the last round of the semifinals, nailing her front twister. The dive, which Lentz called her favorite, earned the junior her highest score of the day (37.40) and a spot in the final.
O'Hara also earned her best score in the semifinals, earning a 33.15 on her seventh dive. The points weren't enough to move her into the finals, finishing just 0.90 points out of 16th place, but the senior was more than happy with her results.
“I honestly felt really good,” O'Hara said. “I think my dives couldn't have been done better.”
The day marked her first appearance at states, and let the senior fulfill a goal of ending her career on the highest level.
“I ended 17th so I was really happy because I didn't even think I was going to make it past the first round,” O'Hara admitted. “I went in with not really any expectations and I came out with something that I never thought would happen.”
Altland kept pace with O'Hara, sitting less than two points behind her after the first five rounds, but a late miscue dropped her on the leader board.
“Overall, my dives were pretty good except for one of them, which I got upset about,” Altland said with a laugh. “When I went to do my hurdle, it was too close to the end of the board and so I kind of fell off and didn't get a good jump.”
It might not have been the ending she wanted, but the junior, who competes for McCaskey but attends Lancaster Country Day, already has her eyes set on next year.
“Probably just because now I have experience at states,” Altland said, “I'll be able to come in and know what's going on...”
“And kill it,” O'Hara interjected with a laugh.