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Shilko second at Schuylkill diving

Published February 09. 2019 12:10AM

FOUNTAIN SPRINGS – Diving has been a forte for a pair of Tamaqua athletes.

The duo of Billy Frederick and Billy Shilko had taken turns winning the gold medal at the annual Schuylkill League Swimming and Diving Championships the previous two seasons.

Friday night turned out to be an evening of disappointment for Fredrick and Shilko, however, as they both came up short — although there surely was a lesson to be learned.

It took a late rally by Blue Mountain’s Michael Levkulic to chase down Shilko, who led from the first dive but saw his hopes get dashed at the end.

Heading into the final two dives, Shilko led by 21 points over Levkulic. The Tamaqua senior would admit, in hindsight, he should have had more of a degree of difficulty in at least one of his two remaining dives.

Instead, it was Levkulic who went over the edge and pulled off an upset by edging Shilko, 429.40-427.10. Blue Mountain’s Jackson Mabry (375.60) was third, while Frederick ended up in fourth with 352.55 points.

“The dives should have had more (degree of difficulty),” said Shilko, who used a one-and-half pike on his last dive, which he nailed perfectly, but only picked up 39 points.

In contrast, Levkulic was the hunter and knew he needed some big dives late to catch his opponent.

“I came up with two big dives at the end that gave me some big points,” said Levkulic, who nearly scored all 8s in his next-to-last dive. “I just had to go for it. Those two (Shilko and Frederick) are very good and it really made me determined.”

Indeed, the newly crowned champ did find that the degree of difficulty is what he needed in order to overtake Shilko. Heading into the final three of their 11 total dives, Shilko led 309.20 with Levkulic seemingly a distance second with 284.35. Frederick was in third at the time with 262.45.

After the ninth dive, Shilko was still ahead on points 351.95-330.55. Then Levkulic nailed a big dive to cut the lead to four (388.55-384.55). On Shilko’s final attempt, he produced a solid number, but Levkulic pulled off a great dive to win the championship on his final try.

“It’s one of those things,” said Mary Shilko, mother of Billy and the diving coach for the Blue Raiders. “Sometimes you’ve got to give the other guy credit. It was more of him winning than Billy losing.”

It looked like it was going to be a neck-and-neck battle between the two Tamaqua divers early on at North Schuylkill’s Don Bricker Natatorium. Frederick came into the meet as the defending champion, while Shilko was trying to make a run at his teammate.

Things looked true-to-form after the first five dives, as Shilko had built a slight advantage. However, Frederick slipped on a late dive and received no points. That dropped the defending champion two spots and made it improbable for him to repeat.

Meanwhile, another stunner in the girls event came about on the final dive of the evening. Pottsville’s Greta Snukis had a 22-point edge (299.85-277.85) over teammate Emma Smith, who entered the final dive in second place. But the winner, Cyla Rose, came back from fourth place to earn the title.

When Snukis started her move to the edge of the board, she stopped and was called for a balk. Snukis seemed to lose her composure and ended up with zero points on her last try.

That opened the door for Rose, who slid past Smith and posted 314.80 points. Smith followed with 310.45. Schuylkill Haven’s Melissa Ellis (310.35) captured third with Tamaqua’s Ashley Jones taking fourth (300.50). Snukis ended in fifth.

Jones was hanging in the balance after nine dives, and slightly in contention. Jones’ teammate Hailey Toth was eliminated after her eighth dive with 189.95 points, finishing seventh overall.

A LONG DAY/NIGHT ... What has become a marathon event in the league with 25 divers — 13 boys, 12 girls – lasted four-plus hours.

BY THE NUMBERS … Tamaqua had three boys in the event. Dominic Valentine also competed and finished 11th. Blue Mountain had five participants. On the girls side, Tamaqua had a pair of divers.

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