Written by David Mann
Buffalo, N.Y. – Darton State College diver Crawford Berry won the NJCAA Diver of the Year Award after sweeping events at nationals, and his coach, Drew Aultman received NJCAA Diving Coach of the Year honors.
The awards followed Darton’s excellent performance at the 2013 NJCAA Swimming and Diving Championships, where Berry won gold medals in 1-meter and 3-meter men’s diving and Lady Cavaliers Sarah Hoop and Kelsey Carniglia won gold and silver medals in the women’s events, respectively.
It was the first time a Darton student-athlete or coach received Diver or Coach of the Year honors, and it almost didn’t happen.
After winning the 3-meter competition on Thursday, Berry felt a little uncertain about the dives he would perform in the 1-meter dive finals on Saturday, he said. He originally had an extremely difficult inward 2 ½ penciled in as his fifth dive on his list of six, but decided to go with an easier dive during the prelims on Friday.
That night, he and Coach Aultman spoke about that list.
“I told him, if you don’t do this higher difficulty dive and you don’t win, you’re going to feel like you didn’t go for it,” she said.
As Crawford climbed onto the board for his fifth dive of the finals, Saturday, he was positioned in second place and 15 points behind Indian River State College’s David Zarb.
The two divers had been back-and-forth throughout the competition, Aultman said. “My heart was pounding out of my chest when he was standing on that board,” she said.
Then Berry executed. He nailed an inward 2 ½ that turned the national championship into Darton’s favor.
“Once he did that 2 ½, it was like, ok, we just won nationals,” Aultman said.
Berry followed up with a front 1 1/2 , two-twist dive that kept Zarb off of his heels by ten points and won his second gold medal of the NJCAA Championship.
“I just figured, if it was finals and it’s going to be close, I might as well go all out,” he said.
His accomplishments – two gold medals and Diver of the Year – are all firsts for the Darton Swimming and Diving program.
In the women’s competition, Hoop and Carniglia’s gold and silver medals were new to Darton Diving too.
Hoop, after finishing fourth in the women’s 1-meter diving competition on Thursday, really stepped up for the 3-meter championship, Saturday.
She beat silver medalist Shanno Mesaros of Indian River by a solid 31 points to bring Darton State its first gold medal in the 3-meter event.
“I was psyched, I was really, psyched,” Aultman said. “She did step up.”
Her teammate, Carniglia, won a silver medal in the 1-meter dive, Thursday. She finished .9 points behind bronze medalist Kendra Holcom of Lincoln College in the 3-meter dive, Saturday.
“Kelsey missed few dives and she’s probably disappointed,” Aultman said. “But it’s still a huge accomplishment.”
Aultman, who is in only her second season as diving coach at Darton, added that she was very proud of the performances of all three divers.
“They did what they had to do when they had to do it,” she said.