By Rob Kiser
CANTON — Ohio still likes “Ike”.
And in just as impressive fashion as the 1952 presidential election, Piqua senior diver Isaac “Ike” Karn soared to a Division II state championship Wednesday at the C.T. Branin Natatorium in a third straight record setting performance.
Karn began to pull away midway through the 11-dive program and finished with a school record 527.55 total — which was also a pool record for Division II.
Noah Viagrin of Indian Hill, who also finished second to Karn at the Southwest Classic and Southwest D-II sectional and district diving meets, was next with a 495.85 total.
And while the son of Travis and Shani Karn led from the start, he tried to not get caught up in the leaderboard.
“It is really hard not to look at it,” Karn said. “I would always seem to take a glance at it, but I wasn’t really thinking about that.”
Karn came in as the favorite — he was the only diver to break .500 at both the sectionals and district.
“There probably was a little extra pressure,” he said. “A lot of people were looking at me to see who I was — because most of the divers in D-II had never seen me before. So, you wanted to have a good warmup.”
Karn also had plenty of support — starting with the sendoff when he left Piqua High School Monday.
“It was just great the way everyone had supported me,” Karn said.
And to Vigran’s credit, he stayed right with Karn through most of the competition.
Through six dives, Karn’s lead over Vigran was just 10.2 points.
“He was a lot closer to me this time,” Karn said. “I did notice that. It did make me a little nervous, because he finishes with some really strong dives.”
But, on dives seven and eight — a back 1.5 pike and reverse dive pike — Karn stretched his lead to 25.85 points before a 15-minute break to cut to 16 divers for the final three dives.
“The sixth, seventh and eight dives were really big for me,” Karn said. “I was feeling really relaxed during the break.”
That is because — like Vigran — Karn finishes with three strong dives with high degree of difficulties.
And once again he nailed them.
He scored 50.4 on a reverse 1.5 pike, 59.8 on a reverse 1.5 somersault with 1.5 twists and 55 on a back 1.5 somersault with 1.5 twists.
“You know the first one (1.5 pike) seems to be hit or miss for me,” Karn said. “The last two dives I really have a lot of confidence in.”
And Karn literally saved his best for last — he was the last diver in the rotation from the start.
“It was definitely the first time I have been the very last diver to go,” Karn said. “To be honest, I didn’t really like watching all the other divers go and seeing what they did. But, I don’t think it really hurt me.”
When he took his last dive, Karn needed just a score of 23 to win the state title.
“It was kind of cool the way it worked out, with me being the last dive,” Karn said. “I knew that basically, all I had to do was do the dive to get 23. As soon as I hit the water, I knew I had won. It was great for the crowd, with me going last.”
And all of his supporters from Piqua were able to celebrate — both at the end of the diving and when he took his place at the top of the podium.
“It was just great, having my family and so many friends there,” Karn said.
And the key for him was again consistency.
Karn scored over 50 points on six of 11 dives and only had one score below 40.8.
And his final three dive competitions, he had scores of 523.15, 523.85 and 527.55
“When I made the decision to focus on diving last summer, I didn’t know I was going to be Division II,” Karn, who had dived Division I the last three years, said. “But, my goal was to focus and push myself to get up over 500, which I did. I think they key for me this year was just setting an individual goal on each dive and not focusing n my total score.”
And Karn — who will dive for Cincinnati next year — will be busy diving into the near future.
“I would like to take a break,” he said with a laugh. “But, our club team’s first practice is Sunday. So, I will be busy getting ready for USA nationals this spring and summer — then it will be off to UC.”
And give Ohio even more reason to like “Ike”.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.