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Winnetka Saturday, 2/23/13 Marian's Joey Cifelli finished second in the Diving Competition during Saturday's IHSA State Championship hosted by New Trier High School. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
A one-hour trek several days a week to the pool at the University of Illinois-Chicago helped Marian Catholic diver Joey Cifelli earn a return trip to the awards ceremony at the state meet.
Cifelli claimed the state runner-up medal Saturday at New Trier with a 443.60 total, finishing only a few points behind state champion Brandis Heffner, of Normal (447.25).
“I’m really happy about it,’’ Cifelli said. “Not a lot of sophomores can say they got second in state.’’
Cifelli, 10th in the state last year, surpassed his preseason goal of finishing among the top six divers in Illinois.
“I thought my three dives went well today,’’ he said. “I think I did them better than I did during warmups. The inward dive, that I could have done better. The reverse one-and-a-half I thought I did really well, and the reverse two-and-a-half.’’
Marian Catholic doesn’t have a swimming team, so Cifelli has to travel to the pool at UIC so he can work on diving.
“He’s a kid with a work ethic,’’ Marian Catholic coach Sean Scanlon said. “How many kids are going to get on a train every day and go downtown, sit for an hour in the stands at UIC and do homework before he can dive? His love for it, he can take it a long way.’’
“Definitely my form and my entries are better,’’ Cifelli said of his improvement over last season. “I’ve been working really hard to fix everything, to get everything perfect.’’
Lincoln-Way North senior Jake Pearson earned all-state status in two events, placing eighth in the 500-yard freestyle (four minutes, 35.07 seconds) and 10th in the 200 freestyle (1:41.48).
“That 500 was an awesome race,’’ Pearson said. “The guy next to me was pushing me the whole time. I even dropped more time today. That was my last high school swim. I was really happy with that race.’’
Pearson, who will attend Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., on a partial scholarship, said he’ll remember the “awesome atmosphere’’ of the state finals.
Brother Rice junior Mitch Strahlman also made all-state in two events. Strahlman placed 10th in the 200 individual medley (1:55.04) and 12th in the 500 freestyle (4:40.38).
Lockport senior Jake Knowles earned all-state status with a seventh-place finish in the 100 breaststroke (57.60), setting a school record in the event for the second day in a row.
Brother Rice freshman James Ryan placed 34th (1:00.16) in the breaststroke.
New Trier scored 189 points to easily win its third straight championship over Hinsdale Central (96) and Lake Forest (93).