By Rob Kiser
It is not easy to improve on a junior season that saw Piqua High School diver Ike Karn finish fifth at the Division I state diving competition.
But, Karn is right on track to do that heading into one of the biggest high school regular season meets of the season.
Virtually every school from Southwest Ohio will be competing this weekend at the Southwest Classic meet.
There is qualifying at numerous sites Saturday, with the finals Sunday at the University of Cincinnati.
Karn, who will dive in the prelims Saturday afternoon at Trotwood High School, has made the finals each of the previous three seasons and finished third a year ago.
“It is one of the biggest regular season meets of the year, before GWOC and sectionals,” Karn said. “It is a big meet and there are a lot of college coaches there. I finished third last year, so I would like to finish in the top three this year.”
There is no reason to think he won’t.
Karn, who signed with the University of Cincinnati earlier this year, made a decision a year ago to dedicate himself to diving.
“It is the first year I haven’t played football,” he said. “So, I was able to focus solely on diving in the summer. It allowed me to be able to practice six days a week in the summer.”
And Karn has been reaping the benefits already.
In December, he competed in the Neb Reed Invitational at Ohio State University.
“They have never had the meet since I have been in high school,” Karn said. “They had always had it before that. I found out they were having it this year, so I was excited about that.”
The meet included many of the top divers in the state.
“You have to send in a qualifying score,” Karn said. “It is for any diver in Division I or II in Ohio. If you are one of the top ones, you get invited.”
Karn did not disappoint, recording a score of 484.25 to finish second.
“The guy who won was the defending state champion Cameron Thatcher (from Powell Olentangy Liberty),” Karn said. “I was seeded in fifth and I came in second. I felt like my work in the summer was paying off and that kind of validates it.”
While he didn’t reach the 500-point mark — or eclipse his school record of 498 (in 11 dive competitons), Karn said it was his best performance yet.
“My coaches all said that it was the best I have ever dived,” he said. “They said the judges just scored everbody really tough.”
Karn still hopes to eclipse the 500-point mark — but he will have to wait a few weeks for that.
“I had 498 at district last year, so I am still hoping to get past the 500-point mark,” he said. “I feel like I am a lot more consistent with my dives this year. My coaches all say I look more confident and relaxed on the board.”
And he gets another chance to show that this weekend.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.