Lucy Ulbricht has been waiting for a year.
In 2018, the Cuyahoga Falls freshman finished just shy of a berth in the Division I district meet in the one-meter diving and was an alternate.
"Being an alternate is kind of a bittersweet thing because you know you’ve done well but were just two or three points away from actually qualifying for districts," said Black Tigers head swimming and diving coach Richard Vaughn. "I think that’s something that kind of stuck with Lucy in the offseason, and she used it as motivation and fuel for this entire season."
Now a sophomore, Ulbricht broke through and qualified the district meet with a score of 266.80 in the sectional meet at the University of Akron’s Ocasek Natatorium, which took place Feb. 6 to 9.
Ulbricht’s score was good enough for eighth place. What qualified her for the district meet was her 26th-place slot combined with the Canton and Cleveland State sectionals. The top 33 divers advanced to districts.
"A lot of times, the difference between somebody who makes districts and doesn’t make districts is not necessarily how well you dive but if you’re able to do harder dives," Vaughn said. "A lot of the judges don’t look for you to do one dive perfectly, but they look at whether you’re willing to do those two and three dives that are much harder. They’re really pushing the divers to go for those harder dives.
"And Lucy has really pushed that difficulty level, and that’s what catapulted her into the district meet, by taking those harder dives. As for her chances to qualify for the state meet, once again it will depend on the difficulty of the dives she chooses to do.
"The atmosphere is definitely going to be a step up. These girls are pretty much the cream of the crop. Cleveland State is also a different kind of environment. It’s laid out a little differently than at Akron.
"You’re kind of surrounded on two sides by the spectators, whereas at Akron the spectators are only on one side. The acoustics are a little different, too, because it’s a little bit of an older facility. It will be interesting to see how Lucy responds to that."
The girls district diving event is scheduled to take place at Busbey Natatorium Thursday at 11:30 a.m.
Ulbricht must finish in the top 24 combined with the five other districts in Ohio to qualify for the state meet in Canton.
Overall at the sectional meet, the Cuyahoga Falls girls team finished in 13th place with 37 points.
Hudson won the competition with 558 points. Brecksville-Broadview Heights finished second with 365 points and Akron Firestone was third with 266.5 points.
Also for the Black Tigers, junior Bryce Matolyak finished 23rd in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1 minute, 19.18 seconds.
Matolyak’s classmate Chloe Gambol placed 24th in the 200 individual medley with a time of 2:38.78.
The Cuyahoga Falls boys team finished 13th overall with 28 points.
Brecksville-Broadview Heights won the competition with 418 points. Hudson finished second with 343 points and Akron Firestone was third with 258 points.
Junior Vann Strausser finished 16th in the one-meter diving with a score of 160.05. Sophomore Caleb Stanley finished 19th with a score of 142.80.
"Vann has started to increase the difficulty of his dives, something that our diving coach has really stressed to him," said Vaughn, also the boys head coach.
Freshman Stanley Shuck finished 16th in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:09.01 and 19th in the 200 IM with a clocking of 2:14.59.
"We thought Stanley would do well in just about any event that he chose to swim," Vaughn said. "We focused on the 200 IM and the 100 breaststroke because we thought those would be his best chances to qualify for districts.
"Stanley didn’t advance, but he did extremely well for a freshman. A lot of those guys he was swimming against are two and three years older than him, but he never got discouraged, never got nervous. He was even able to calm some of his teammates down just by his presence. We’re really looking for him to improve in the offseason for next year."