By BRIAN JENNINGS
It was no surprise that Chase Galayda broke the school’s 11-dive record for the third season in a row. It was no surprise that he qualified for the State Open diving championship for the first time in his high school career.
But on Thursday, March 15, Galayda took one step closer to becoming Southington’s first male elite diver with an 11th place finish against the state’s top acrobats.
Galayda entered the meet as the 15th seed with a 409.4 qualifying score, and Southington’s only chance for a state open medal in diving. He added almost 20 points to his previous best, moving up four places with a score of 428.
The score came within 15.5 points of a medal and left fans wondering what’s in store for next season.
Tuttle was already looking ahead to next winter. “We’re going to get the degree of difficulty up a little bit and see if we can’t get him on that podium,” said the coach.
Galayda scored highest on the dive that helped him capture both the six and 11-dive school records at the conference meet: his back summersault with a two and half twist. The dive has a high degree of difficulty, and that racked up the points quickly for Galayda (50). Tuttle said that he hit it well at the open.
“It’s hard to even keep track of,” said Tuttle. “The kid’s twisting so fast, but he’s got such good body control, and that comes from a lifetime of experience in gymnastics.
Tuttle said that Galayda and diving coach Jan Zagorski have done a great job working together over the last couple of years in being able to locate the water and work on body entry into the pool.
“He’s really tightened up some small things that have really gotten his scores up,” said Tuttle. “The degree of difficulty has always been there for him. It was just getting a little cleaner with the dives. He’s been able to do that this year, and we’re going to work to get it even better next year.”
Tuttle said that Galayda and Zagorski will develop a plan for next season, and Tuttle said that he expects the degree of difficulty to bump up over Galayda’s final three dives to close strong in the 11-dive format.
“Getting a little more elevation off the board is something they’ve been talking about,” said Tuttle.
Kevin Bradley (515.15) of Brien McMahon-Norwalk won the open diving title, followed by Owen Stevens (505.35) of Darien, Devon Satir (504.7) of Greenwich, Wiley Schmidt (499.8) of Darien, Brendan Downey (451.4) of Avon, and James Ragusa (443.7) of New Canaan.
Putting the diving season into perspective, the Knights are returning all five of their divers that they qualified for the conference meet, which include Galayda, Emerson Suski, Kian Siadat, Ben Ragozzine, and Ben Smith. Tuttle said that qualifying a full card of four divers for the Class LL diving meet for two consecutive years is a luxury that few other teams have.
“We’re truly fortunate to have the diving core that we do, and all the credit there goes to Coach Jan,” said Tuttle. “She’s not only an incredible coach for those divers, but a great role model as well. They work well with each other, and Jan helps facilitate that.”
For more in depth coverage, see our weekly print edition. To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.