LEWISBURG — It’s unclear what was more draining for Dillon Novak on Saturday night: his 11 dives to win state gold, or the mob of family and friends that swarmed him outside the pool at Bucknell University, his mom at one point smacking him on the shoulders repeatedly to his chagrin.
Regardless, the stress was well worth it, as the Big Spring senior finally, after three years of waiting, won the school’s first state diving title in the PIAA Class 2A Boys Diving Championships.
“It’s awesome, I’ve worked so hard,” Novak said. “I’ve been dedicated to this sport. So many nights coming home late, eating cold dinners and just struggling through it, and it’s finally just all paid off.”
Novak shattered his personal best of a 487, scoring a 518.90 over his 11 dives to coast to gold, the first one available since the graduation of Trinity’s Bradley Buchter, a phenom who won four straight diving championships while breaking the state record each time. Novak finished 11th two years ago before taking silver in 2016.
“I knew it was a possibility,” Novak said of working the past 12 months for this opportunity. “I tried not to think about it too much because I didn’t wanna get too sure. I tried to stay humble about it.”
His new PR and the gold were “a rush of emotions” by his 10th dive, Novak admitted. But the La Salle University-bound diver kept his composure, nailing his final three dives of the night.
Novak’s forward 1½ full twist, back 1½ somersaults 1½ twists and reverse 1½ tuck amassed 159.65 points. He felt particularly comfortable on his inward 11/2 pike, his second dive of the day, and his final dive of the night, put the exclamation point on a fantastic day for the Bulldogs.
Novak’s gold came a few hours after teammate Shannon McCabe snared silver with a 408.75. The junior led after three dives before eventually giving way to West York’s Erica Sarver, who McCabe trains with.
McCabe recently added a reverse 11/2, she said, and was a little shaky with it during warmups and competition. So it gives her something to work on next season as she begins a run at gold.
Elsewhere, Boiling Springs sophomore Jack Still finished 15th with 292.65 in the boys championships. Trinity’s Riley Spahr finished 17th with 216.35.
The one-two Big Spring punch is the best Bulldogs performance in states ever. Last year, Novak finished second to Buchter, while McCabe finished eighth. First-year diver Matthew Watkins also took eighth for Big Spring last year.
Big Spring girls jumped to a tie for 28th in the final team standings with 17 points, while the boys leaped into sixth thanks to Novak’s performance. In Class 3A girls, Carlisle’s Laura McIlhenny scored a 257.15 in the semifinals, which was not enough to move her into the finals on Sunday.
“That’s awesome that first and second come from the same coach, same school,” Novak said. “It feels amazing, I can’t even explain it.”
“I wouldn’t want my junior season to end any other way,” McCabe said of the pair’s performance. “He put so much time in.”