South Park duo poised for run at diving titles
There is an old adage that two heads are better than one.
For the South Park swim team, the adage goes two divers are better than one.
Junior Jamie Wolf and sophomore Chris Lapinski have benefited from practicing and pushing each other to the point where they are both the favorites to win gold medals at the WPIAL Class AA diving championships Friday and Saturday at Pine-Richland.
“There is a friendly competition going on,” South Park coach Bob Kane said. “If one is doing well, then the other doesn’t want to be left behind. It’s a real friendly, supportive atmosphere we try to create in practice.”
The duo often watches the other perform a dive not only for motivation, but to help them learn the technique.
“We are always pushing each other,” Wolf said. “It’s kind of like, if he does a dive well, then I want to. We really help each other out.”
If they do sweep, it would be the first time South Park has accomplished that feat.
“It’s never happened before, but we’re really hoping this year is the first,” Wolf said.
Lapinski came out of nowhere to finish third in the WPIAL last season and this year, he is improved.
“The funniest part of Chris is he’s on our WPIAL soccer team and actually, Chris placed third at WPIALs with only 20 weeks of practice,” South Park diving coach Julie Murray said. “He’s just an amazing athlete. He’s versatile and agile. He has the talent and we give him the tools to do the things that he does.”
Lapinski, a varsity defender for the soccer team, joined the team last year by coincidence after a South Park coach noticed how high he could jump off a board during a mandatory swimming class.
“He was crazy at first, he didn’t have any control,” Murray said. “In soccer, he used different parts of his body. He had absolutely no control from the start. But he picked it up quickly. We would tell him what to do and he would do it. He’s a true athlete.”
Lapinski still only starts diving after soccer season, but it hasn’t halted his development.
“This year, he picked up right where he left off,” Murray said. “He is determined. He knows what he wants to do.”
Lapinski is considering spending more time diving, especially if he continues to excel.
“I’m starting to think about it a lot now,” Lapinski said. “I think I’m going to try to do some stuff this summer.”
Murray and her co-coach John Gray would never push an athlete to stop playing a sport and in Lapinski’s case, staying with two sports could be an advantage.
“We’ve talked about it and this is just a stepping stool for something that is much greater,” Murray said. “Playing both sports, he doubles his chances of scholarship.”
Lapinski’s main competition at 3:45 p.m. Friday will be Kent McCullough of Moon, who has a season-best score of 236.10 compared to Lapinski’s 247.35.
“If he does what he does in practice, he is going to win,” Murray said.
Wolf also has some good competition with Natalie Creighton of South Fayette and Amber Lengle of Pine-Richland at 6:45 p.m. Saturday.
“Jamie is going to be in a real cat fight,” Murray said.
Wolf also didn’t start diving until her freshman season, but she had a strong background in gymnastics.
“She’s very determined and she picks up changes quickly,” Murray said. “That’s what you need to succeed in this sport.
Wolf finished third in the WPIAL and fourth in the PIAA last season. Murray also believes Wolf, like Kapinski, can dive in college.
“She has a bright future,” Wolf said. “She can do anything she wants.”
And if Wolf and Lapinski win this weekend they partly will have each other to thank.
“It’s such an advantage having both of them on the team,” Murray said. “Jamie is a year ahead of Chris and they definitely push each other. They learn from each other.”
And now, they want to win together.