By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
Small- or large-municipality division, it didn’t matter. By the end of Thursday’s State Diving Championship, Cullman had more than enough points to cover both, blasting Hoover by a bit more than 50 points and Madison by nearly 100 for the title.
Hoover, which won the crown last year when all teams were grouped together regardless of city size, was officially awarded the large-municipality championship with 195 points. Cullman, on the other hand, finished with 249, proving it might not be nearly as big of a city, but that it can pack one heckuva punch on the diving boards.
The Catfish divers also snagged top honors the last time the Cullman Wellness and Aquatic Center hosted the Alabama Recreation and Parks Association State Swimming and Diving Championship in 2011.
“I’m so proud that we had so many divers make it to state and that we had a high score of all the teams,” Cullman coach Dianne Evans said. “They all worked really hard.”
That work paid off in the form of first-place finishes for Reese McNeel (10-and-under girls 1-meter) and Reagan Martin (12U 3-meter), as well as runner-up results for Cort McNeel (10U boys 1-meter), Kelly Warren (10U girls 1-meter), Anna Evans (12-14 girls 1-meter) and Michael Bentley (15-18 boys 1- and 3-meters).
Cort McNeel also sprung to third at the 3-meter height for the 12-and-under boys, while Martin grabbed fourth at 1-meter for the 11- to 12-year-old girls.
Rounding out the Catfish contingent’s top-three divers were Noah Warren (10U boys 1-meter), Claire Ogstad (10U girls 1-meter), Hannah Ogstad (11-12 girls 1-meter) and Eliza Hollingsworth (12U girls 3-meter).
John Naylor (11-12 boys 1-meter) and Seth Campbell (13-14 boys 1-meter) were fourth in their respective categories.
The Cullman dive team has experienced a great deal of success since it formed five years ago with the arrival of the Aquatic Center. Not only have the Catfish roped in multiple state championships, but they’ve never lost at the district level.
“Our dive program keeps growing, and I appreciate all of the parent support,” Evans said. “The Cullman community is so lucky to have such a quality aquatic center and some of the best diving boards around.”
The swimming portion of the meet will get going today at 10 a.m. and wrap up late Saturday afternoon. Longtime rivals Cullman and Scottsboro are expected to duke it out for the small-municipality championship.
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 138 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.