After going to the Illinois state swimming and diving meet for a fourth time, Benet senior diver Taylor Kramer is becoming an expert at handling the pressure.
Kramer, who finished sixth at state last year, goes into Saturday's three-dive final in second place after finishing Friday's eight-dive competition with a score of 296.70, 11 points behind the leader, Allegra Codamon of Zion-Benton.
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"Even though it's a big meet I treat it like a practice," said Kramer, who will go to Penn State next year. "I'm finding it easier to handle the pressure and the crowd being there."
Kramer's success is even more impressive when you consider that her high school has no diving team, diving coach or swimming pool.
"Taylor does a tremendous job," said Geri Petit, her club coach who is both the director of the DuPage Diving Club and the diving coach at Neuqua Valley. "With no home pool and coach, she doesn't have as much practice time as the other girls in the competition. She grabs as much time as she can, but she has to travel a lot to practice and she works on odd days and at odd times, sometimes at 7 a.m. and others at 8 p.m."
"I got off to a slow start this year because of the practice situation," Kramer said. "But Geri has really made it work out for me. I get to practice at Neuqua Valley,"
"At one point we sat down and had a long talk about where Taylor was, where she wanted to be and what she needed to do to get there," Petit said. "And then she really worked hard and turned everything around. Sometimes it takes kids a while to realize that this is their senior year and the last chance to turn things around."
Kramer worked on improving her hurdle in order to get a better ride from the board, and she concentrated on her consistency.
"Taylor's concentration and her consistency have been the keys to her success," Petit said. "Today, she stayed on an even keel through the entire meet."
"I was really happy that everything worked out well today," Kramer said. "I have three good dives left in the final. One is my favorite, the inward one-and-a-half. I'm focused and ready to go."
Naperville Central sophomore Sophia Heiser finished ninth in Friday's prelims to advance.
"It's a good feeling to do that well," Heiser said. "At the beginning of the year, I was a little nervous about my dives. But I've developed a system. I listen to pump-up music between dives and I think about what I'm going to do before the dive. So when I get on the board I don't have to think about it. I just treat it like training."
"Sophia has such great technique," said Redhawks diving coach Dave Likar. "She jumps really high and spins really fast. She finishes off the dives so much higher than the board, and the longer drop time always impresses the judges, which it should."
Hinsdale Central had a pair of divers finish in the top 12 and go into Saturday's final. Sophomore Margy McCarthy is in sixth place and junior Marley Marano is 10th.