Chiulli prepared to dive right in
Posted Dec 12, 2010 @ 08:42 PM
Westwood High’s Irina Chiulli has had the type of high school career that most athletes would envy. And it’s only barely half done.
On November 21, the Wolverine sophomore brought home her second consecutive Division 2 state title in the 1-meter diving competition, scoring 440.50 points at Harvard University’s Blodgett Pool. Chiulli was nearly 40 points clear of her closest pursuer, Bishop Stang senior Cara Brown (403.90).
“I kind of knew what to expect this year. I knew most of the people that were there, except for the freshmen, and I think I had more confidence having already been through it,” said Chiulli. “It was kind of a surprise last year, I was just going in trying to do my best.”
The victory capped an unbeaten season on the board for Chiulli as she swept through the dual meet season before earning Southern Conference and South sectional crowns.
Along the way, Chiulli left a number of new marks in her wake. She bettered the Westwood High diving record of 255 points, which had stood since 1996, four times, culminating in a high of 280 against Ursuline Academy, and set a new Southern Conference Championship standard with 272.
“It’s just her attitude, her hard work and the physical training that she does,” said Westwood diving coach Jim Locke. “Her preparation was unbelievable, she has all the tools.”
Like many top divers, Chiulli has been able to draw from a gymnastics background in honing her craft. She was a Level 7 state champion gymnast before giving up the sport prior to entering high school.
“I think it really helps, especially with the body control that you need in diving,” said Chiulli. “The tumbling and somersaults help with the spinning fast.”
While Chiulli may have reached the pinnacle in her first season with the Wolverines, she did not rest on her laurels, spending this season refining the dives already in her repertoire and adding new ones to her arsenal.
She developed new dives like an inward 1 1/2 pike, one of the dives she credited with the improved scores that allowed her not only claim the state title this season but the sectional title that eluded her as a freshman. After finishing fourth in her debut at the South meet, which features divers from both Division 1 and 2, she blew away the field by more than 60 points at MIT this year with a score of 457.60.
“This year my goal was to win state and conferences, I wasn’t sure how sectionals was going to go,” said Chiulli. “Last year there was more competition for me at sectionals.”
For all of Chiulli’s accomplishments on the board, there is one more thing that set her apart from most of her elite competitors – her prowess in the pool. Chiulli was a key scorer in the 100-yard backstroke for Westwood during the season and qualified to swim in the event at both sectionals and states, although after competing at sectionals she opted to focus exclusively on diving at Harvard. She also swam under 30 seconds in the 50 freestyle.
Chiulli enjoys being able to step out of the specialist role that many divers fill on their team and contribute to her squad in more than one event.
“Swimming makes me feel a lot more included in the sport,” said Chiulli. “It’s a lot of fun.”
“She could be a real could be a really good swimmer, she has the talent, I don’t know if you want to call it natural,” said Locke. “She’s a great kid that’s well liked by her teammates and as she goes along she’s just going to keep improving and improving. She’s really unbelievable.”
Westwood High is not the only place that Chiulli has racked up accolades. She won the 1-meter diving in the 13-14 year old division at the Bay State Games this summer and finished second in the 3-meters in the 15-16 division. She has also qualified at the USA Diving Championships and the AAU Diving Championships the past two years.
And while she still has two years on Nahatan Street to add to her already impressive collection of hardware, she is well in her way to her long-term goal of earning a diving scholarship.
“I’m sure schools will be chasing after her,” said Locke.
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