By Trib HSSNFriday, January 24, 2020
Two years ago, five members of the Fox Chapel boys diving team earned qualifying marks for the WPIAL Class AAA championships at North Allegheny.
However, that created a problem for the Foxes and then-coach Vernon Yenick.
Qualifying policy states a maximum of four from one team are permitted to dive at WPIALs.
Who was going to be the odd man out?
Aidan Ireland, then a freshman, stepped aside, knowing he would have several more chances to qualify. Fox Chapel ended up having a productive WPIAL meet. Jonah Cagley won his second straight WPIAL title. David Manelis finished third in his WPIAL debut, Magnus Loeffler took 10th and Nate Serkov placed 14th in the field of 26.
“Being a freshman and having the lowest score among the five, I knew the others were more deserving,” said Ireland, whose diving journey began early in his eighth-grade year.
“I knew that I would get to WPIALs if I kept working hard.”
Ireland came back last season and earned a top-10 finish at WPIALs, and he now has his sights set on a trip to states.
“This year, I am doing dives with more consistency. My form is better, and I feel more comfortable and not as nervous,” said Ireland, who placed ninth at WPIALs last season with 359.30 points over 11 dives.
He entered the meet as the No. 13 seed.
The WPIAL diving championships for Class AAA are Feb. 22 at North Allegheny. The top five finishers automatically qualify.
“I came back really positive this year, and I feel I have a good chance for states,” Ireland said. “The last two years, I was a little nervous about WPIALs and thought I had to go all out. This year has been so much fun. I am not putting as much pressure on myself. If I do well at WPIALs, it’s an added positive. I’m just going to go in and hope to do my best.”
He had 375.20 points in Fox Chapel’s home section finale against Franklin Regional on Thursday.
Ireland is seeded ninth with a top six-dive total of 240.20 earned against Franklin Regional.
The top 10 at WPIALs will have a different look because six of the top 10 finishers from last season graduated, including Cagley, a three-time WPIAL champion who dives at Duke.
But Ireland knows he will have to be at the top of his game to earn a top-five finish.
“I think it will be close for a number of the top spots, and it will come down to some of the similar dives and who can execute them the best and is the most consistent,” Ireland said.
Fox Chapel coach Joey Ference said he is confident Ireland can rise above.
“If he dives to the best of his ability, I have no doubt he can get to states,” Ference said. “He’s been working his butt off, and he’s come a long way.”
This is the third year in a row four divers will represent Fox Chapel in the boys competition.
Juniors Tristan Vettier and Jacob Mulhern will make their WPIAL debuts.
“I think there is just so much motivation to put in that effort to get better,” Ireland said.
“This is Tristan and Jacob’s first year, and they’ve progressed so much in practice and meets. They are doing things after three months I didn’t do for two years. The coaches, Vernon before and Joey (Ference), really have pushed us to try new things and take the next step with our dives. The environment is really positive, and we push and motivate each other. That has helped (Fox Chapel diving) to do really well the last couple of years.”