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By Zach Cavanagh

It only natural that the Dolphins have a stellar diving history, and Dana Hills added another name to its pantheon of acrobatic splashers on Friday, May 21.

Dana Hills junior Olivia Paquette posted an 11-dive total score of 517.45 points to edge out a competitive field and win the CIF-SS Division 2 girls diving championship at the Marguerite Aquatic Center in Mission Viejo.

“It felt really good,” Paquette said. “I wasn’t expecting it to feel as good as it did.”

Paquette is the only the second Dana Hills girl to win a CIF-SS title after 2002 Division 1 champion Joey Brown. Dana Hills has three boys titles – Division 4A champion Nate Smith in 1992 and two Division 1 championships by Jake Greenberg in 2015 and 2017.

Dana Hills also earned a podium position on the boys side as junior Rhys Davies finished second in Division 2. Davies’ 535.30 total points trailed only South Pasadena junior Nicholas Chau’s winning 572.90 total points. Dana Hills freshman Caden Diehl finished in seventh with 368.80 points.

Dana Hills junior Olivia Paquette (center) takes the top of the podium as CIF-SS Division 2 diving champion. Photo: Dana Hills Athletics

Paquette didn’t lead wire to wire, as she sat in second after a couple of dives she said she missed on.

In the fifth round, Paquette scored 8.0s on a reverse 2 1/2 somersault tuck off the 3-meter springboard, which propelled her up the scoreboard.

“It’s my most challenging and scary dive,” Paquette said. “It had been moving slow (in practice), but I had a good top and I ripped it.”

Paquette said she peaked up at the scoreboard only a few times, but felt good when she saw her name go up to the first position.

Dana Hills junior Olivia Paquette (center) won the CIF-SS Division 2 girls diving title on Friday, May 21. On the boys side, Dana Hills junior Rhys Davies (left) finished second, and freshman Caden Diehl (right) finished seventh. Photo: Dana Hills Athletics

Paquette’s 517.45 total points beat out Sage Hill freshman Ennika Carlson’s 494.95 points and Gabrielino sophomore Morgan Ogata’s 476.25 points.

Paquette’s championship comes nearly a full 12 months since her return to the pool. At the outset of the pandemic, Paquette’s practices with her club at Crown Valley community pool in Laguna Niguel were cancelled until June, which meant Paquette was out of the pool for four months.

“In diving, that’s a long time,” Paquette said. “It can be scary and more difficult to get back in after that time off.”

However, the practices with her club and club coach paid off with the CIF-SS championship.

With a senior year ahead of her next year, Paquette still has goals to achieve.

Normally, following the CIF-SS championships, there are state qualifiers and a CIF State meet to compete in, but with the pandemic, there are no state diving events to continue on in.

Paquette made it to the state qualifiers as a freshman, but she did not advance. Now, with the pandemic leading to the cancellation of her sophomore and junior year state events, Paquette can keep the goal of moving on to the state meet next year.

Zach Cavanagh Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is a California Journalism Award winner and has covered sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports. Email at zcavanagh@picketfencemedia.com.

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