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Perkiomen Valley’s Filzen, Spring-Ford’s Ricci take top prizes at PAC Diving Championships

Perkiomen Valley's Gabrielle Filzen, right, stands atop a starting block after receiving her first-place medal at the PAC Diving Championships Thursday. Second-place finisher Ciara MacMullen of Owen J. Roberts is next to Filzen. (Austin Hertzog - MediaNews Group)

 

GRATERFORD >> Perkiomen Valley’s Gabby Filzen broke her own team record and Spring-Ford’s Sam Ricci jumped three places from last year to win the Pioneer Athletic Conference Diving Championships Thursday night at Perkiomen Valley High School.

Filzen earned a score of 452.40 in the 11 dive, 1-meter springboard competition, topping the mark of 445.75 that she posted while winning the inaugural PAC meet last season.

Ricci bettered his fourth-place score from last year by nearly 75 points with a total of 411.25 points.

Top finishers in the girls’ competition at the PAC Diving Championships were, from right, champion Gabrielle Filzen of Perkiomen Valley, Owen J. Roberts’ Ciara MacMullen (2nd), OJR’s Olivia Kqira (5th) and Phoenixville’s Emily Westerfer (6th). (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

The top 6 boys’ finishers at the PAC Diving Championships were (from left): Spring-Ford’s Sam Ricci (1st), Perkiomen Valley’s Evan Brzoska (2nd), Perkiomen Valley’s Ben Incollingo (3rd), Tristan Olson (4th), Leo Edmonds-Doberenz (5th) and Phoenixville’s Joel Smith (6th). (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Filzen competed in gymnastics for seven years before taking up diving just two years ago at the urging of her mother.

Owen J. Roberts’ Ciara MacMullen competes at the PAC Diving Championships on Thursday at Perkiomen Valley. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

“I practice at West Chester Diving Club year round and I’ve just worked really hard the last two years,” said the Viking sophomore. “I really love it now.”

Filzen performed well from start to finish, leaving little doubt that she would repeat as champion and winning the gold medal by 77 points.

“I was in a good mood today,” she said. “It was nice to see everybody from the PAC and competing against them.”
And she felt no pressure to defend her title.

Owen J. Roberts’ Olivia Kqira competes at the PAC Diving Championships on Thursday at Perkiomen Valley. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

“Not really,” she said. “I just try to beat myself and be the best I can be, not worry about the competition.”

Filzen hopes to move up at least one place at districts. Last year, she finished ninth and missed a state berth by one spot.

Ricci, a junior, has also been diving for only about two years and credits his work at the West Chester Diving Club for his rapid improvement.

“This is by far the highest score I’ve had,” he said. “I dive with the West Chester club team. I’ve been going to practice there and working out during the summer. The work I do there helps me at the high school.”

Ricci, who participated in swimming and track before taking up diving, also got off to a good start and never faltered. He thought his reverse 1½ and front 2½ dives were big factors in the win. He came into the meet not knowing what to expect this year after finishing over 50 points out of first place last season and with two of the top three medalists returning.

Spring-Ford’s Sam Ricci hits the water on his final dive. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

“I didn’t know,” he said. “I thought I would possibly end up in third. Coming in first was a very good surprise for me.”

Owen J. Roberts sophomore Ciara MacMullen’s goal was to place higher than last year. And she did, moving up from fourth place to second with a score of 375.40, despite a disappointing first dive.

“I was discouraged,” she said. “I tried to pull it together.”

She rallied from behind to top Upper Merion’s Grace Myers by 17.25 points.

“My double front back 1½ twist … that definitely helped,” she said. “That definitely helped pull me up through the places. After the first dive, I was pretty far behind.”

MacMullen started out in gymnastics and has been diving for 1½ to 2 years.

“I kept getting hurt in gymnastics,” she said. “Diving helps with self-confidence. Getting new dives and making districts is really nice.”

Owen J. Roberts’ Tristan Olson competes at the PAC Diving Championships on Thursday at Perkiomen Valley. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Perkiomen Valley senior Evan Brzoska, the defending champion, placed second with a score of 366.80, little more than 20 points better than Perk Valley teammate Ben Incollingo.

He also got off to a rocky start, but pulled things together.

“I finally regained my confidence,” he said. “I had already qualified for districts in a 6 dive meet.”

Brzoska is a diving veteran compared to many of the PAC competitors, taking up the sport six years ago.

“I put my heart and soul into it,” he said.

The District 1 boys diving championships will take place next Friday and the girls will compete on Saturday, both at North Penn High School.

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