WINNETKA | His tough self-criticism over his second-place Illinois state diving finish Saturday probably lasted only until Joe Cifelli tackled a post-meet dinner with his parents and two brothers at a nearby pizza restaurant.
The Marian Catholic sophomore earned renown by not having an interscholastic diving team on which to compete. Cifelli, 15, has two more years to win a state title.
He finished just behind senior Brandis Heffner of University High School in Bloomington-Normal for the second day in a row at the state meet at New Trier High School.
Heffner totaled 447.25 points for his three dives compared to Cifelli’s 443.60.
“I felt the little mistakes I made today that Brandon didn’t make (were the difference),” Cifelli said. “Brandon’s a really good diver and he definitely deserves the state title."
But Cifelli won’t settle just for state titles. He has a preferred destination at the 2016 Olympic Trials, just after his freshman year in college.
“Not a lot of sophomores can say they got second in state. I dove to the best of my ability. I do want to go to the Olympic Trials. That’s one of my main goals," he said.
Marian Catholic girls swimming coach Sean Scanlon, who directed Cifelli at the state meet, said an Olympics bid is a logical progression for the diving prodigy.
“The sky’s the limit with him,” Scanlon said. “He knows what it takes. He knows what he’s got to do to get that one more spot next year.”
Cifelli earned scores of 6 ½, 7 ½, 7, 5 ½, 6, 7 and 7 on his inward dive, his first event.
On the reverse one-and-a-half somersault, he drew 5 ½, 6, 7 ½, 6, 6, 6 and 7.
The reverse two-and-a-half somersault, his finale, was scored 5, 4 ½, 5 ½, 4 ½, 5 ½, 5 and 5.
Scoring is compiled as judges look at the degree of difficulty of each dive. The top two and bottom two scores are tossed out. The three remaining scores are added up, then multiplied by the difficulty of the dives.
Without a boys diving team at Marian Catholic, Cifelli cannot compete in regular-season IHSA events, making his tourney accomplishments stand out more.
Scanlon is the only coach allowed to help Cifelli at the state meet since he is a school employee. He cites Cifelli’s “work ethic” and “having fun and love of diving” as motivating factors.
He’s already a student of diving.
“I know if I come out early if my feet are flat or I don’t have a good approach,” Cifelli said. “It’s little stuff that I know I did before I even come up out of the water.
"A lot of learning how to dive is learning how to make adjustments in the air.”