Last year, Nikki Craft went where no other Bay High School swimmer had gone by placing third at the state diving competition.
This year, she went even further.
Craft won the Division II state title Thursday at Canton’s C.T. Natatorium, becoming the first-ever state champion in the history of the Rockets’ swim program, which began in 1977.
Craft finished well ahead of her closest competitor, second-place Nicole Brehm from Lemon-Monroe High School, tallying a score of 456.85 to Brehm’s 417.90.
“It feels great to be the first one, and as a sophomore,” Craft said. “This season has been wonderful. I’m undefeated. It’s been great.”
Craft’s lofty achievements this season did not begin and end at the state competition. At districts, she shattered the state record set last year by Milbury Lake’s Brittany Teneyck (457.55), posting a score of 502.80. Craft’s record-setting performance was below her personal best of 536 points, which she reached during the regular season this year, but above what she scored at the state tournament.
“When you get into state the scoring is tougher,” Craft said.
Craft has two years left to defend her title, something she is looking forward to accomplishing.
“I’m so excited,” Craft said of the prospect of winning two more state titles. “I’m glad I have two more years left.”
In Division I, three area girls finished in the top 14. Westlake senior Mackenzie Wickliffe was eighth (375.35), North Olmsted sophomore Tiffany Platko was 10th (348.90) and Avon Lake freshman Morgan Srail was 14th (337.15).
Wickliffe’s finish was good enough for All-Ohio honors (top eight finishers), the first Westlake diver to accomplish as much since the 1995-96 season.
“I did really well,” said Wickliffe, who advanced to the state finals for the first time in her career. “There really wasn’t one (dive) in particular. I thought they were all pretty good.
“I made sure I stayed relaxed and focused. I was a little nervous, but not too bad.”
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or email@example.com.