Chugiak's Friedli wins state title
Anyone who doubts the benefit of eating fruit should talk to Kaitlin Friedli.
Fueled by a pregame apple, the Chugiak High junior scored a total 355.05 to win the girls state diving title Saturday, Nov. 5 by more than 10 points over runner-up Sophie Hogen of Kodiak.
Friedli, who led after each of the three rounds during the ASAA State Swimming and Diving Championships at Bartlett High, dominated the Cook Inlet Conference meet a week prior at the same venue. And she ate an apple before each round.
“It’s become a new superstition,” said Chugiak head coach Jessica Kopischke.
Friedli said her new good-luck charm was the center of many jokes.
“All my coaches teased me about my apples,” she said.
But Friedli doesn’t plan on adding the fruit to every pre-competition routine, just at larger meets.
“Got to save them for the special ones,” she said.
After the semifinals, Friedli led Hogen by just 2.9 points.
“I had a rough second round and had to recover from it,” Friedli said. “Three points is not a lot in diving.”
With no margin for error, Friedli said she opted not to attempt a new dive in the finals.
“I had to go with what was comfortable,” she said.
And it paid off.
Friedli said as soon as she threw a forward double somersault in her third and final dive, she knew she’d won.
“She knew what she wanted. If she kept her head in the game, she could nail her last three dives,” Kopischke said.
Kopischke said she tells Friedli to approach her competitions one dive at a time.
“I always tell her the same thing, ‘Do what you know how to do, and the rest will come through,’” Kopischke said. “I’m very proud of her.”
Friedli, who was shaking after learning she owned the state title, said the reality of winning hadn’t hit her yet.
“It hasn’t really sunk in,” she said. “I was crying because I knew I got first.”
Friedli said Kopischke’s unwavering support throughout the season was a huge part of her state title.
“Every dive she’s like, ‘You got it. You got it. You can do this,’” Friedli said. “That’s a major factor for me believing in myself.”
Friedli said she tries to avoid knowing the other divers’ scores at a competition. During the preliminaries and semifinals, Friedli stuck headphones in her ears immediately after exiting the pool.
“I’m trying not to listen to the scores, so I turn it up really loud,” Friedli said. “I think I probably ruined my headphones.”
Winning a state diving title is no easy task. It’s a year-round commitment for Friedli.
During the season, Friedli said she’s in the pool everyday for at least two hours, and sometimes goes back for a second practice in a day. In the off-season, she’s honing her skills two to three days a week.
“It’s really hard to take a half a year off and get back into it,” Friedli said. “It takes muscle memory.”
“Dedication to diving is everything,” she said. “Even a week off the board has a devastating effect on a kid.”
Those that put in the work, like Friedli, are rewarded at state, Kopischke said.
“It’s all about these kids and how hard they work,” she said. “This is her moment. She deserves it.”
Chugiak freshman Sammy Burke reached the finals in four events. In her individual events, Burke took third in the 100 free and fifth in the 100 back. She was also part of seventh-place 200 medley relay and eighth-place 200 free relay.
Erin Cockerham, Maegan Lange and Cierra Holtman joined Burke in the medley relay while Amanda Vikdal and Amy Hartke joined Burke and Holtman in the freestyle relay.
Burke said her lack of nerves worked against her at state.
“I’m not as nervous as I was last week, which I don’t think is a good thing,” Burke said. “I do better nervous.”
Eagle River’s Kate Mondl was the Wolves’ lone state finalist. She finished eighth in the 500 free. Eagle River did not have any finalists on the boys side.
With a time of 1:44.27, Chugiak’s boys 200 medley relay of Andrew Espe, Ethan Espe, Derek Cluff and Grant Ensign rebroke the school record they set during the CIC meet. Cluff’s speedy breaststroke leg helped the team shave five-hundredths of a second off the seven-day-old record, Andrew Espe said.
The atmosphere of the state meet pushed the relay team to its top performance, Andrew Espe said.
“It’s the pressure of being at a big meet. The adrenaline was running through you,” he said.
The team was excited it improved upon its former record, Andrew Espe said.
“It’s kind of cool,” he said. “We like to know we can go faster.”
While Friedli will look to defend her title next year, Burke is expecting a strong Mustangs swim team at state.
“Next year, we should have more people in finals,” Burke said.
Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or email@example.com