EVANSTON | On a cold and snowy Saturday afternoon, Marian Catholic diver Joey Cifelli took to the pool and brought home a state title.
He picked up the IHSA crown with a 474.05, 36 points clear of his nearest competitor. It's the first state diving title for the Spartans.
"I’m really happy winning this,” Cifelli said. “I knew it was close coming in, and I was really nervous this morning. I was really over thinking things, but my coach just said to go out there and do what you do every day in practice.”
If Cifelli was suffering from nerves, it wasn’t noticeable. He seemed completely relaxed on the deck as he prepared for the final three dives of the meet.
“I do all my jumping and shaking and preparation in the back,” he said. “On the deck, I try to just stay relaxed and visualize each dive before I attempt them.”
After taking home the title, Cifelli was greeted by a mass of competitors, coaches, and officials in the locker room where phrases like “hard worker” and “great kid” seemed to be coming from all directions.
He can thank his blue-collar upbringing for instilling these values in him from a young age.
Joey’s dad John is an iron worker and his mom Sylvia is a teacher at Marian Catholic. The Cifellis have lived in Chicago Heights for generations. They have told all four of their sons that they should choose their own path and work hard if they want to be successful.
“Joey is the hardest working of all our boys,” John Cifelli said. “He drives himself to practices from Homewood to UIC to southern Wisconsin and he keeps his grades up, as well. We’re lucky to be able to help him out; we’re just working-class folks.”
“You make sacrifices for your children,” Sylvia Cifelli added. “When he went to his first diving lesson, he came out and mouthed, 'I love it'. From that day forward, we’ve just told him that as long as he loves it to go after it and we’ll support him.”
Joey shared the title with the entire family, something they will enjoy for a long time to come.
“I’m really excited. My brother Robby won a state title in baseball a couple years ago at Marian and the whole family has been holding that over me,” Joey said.
“I know it means a lot seeing me win one on my own. They really push me, but they always say that if I don’t like it anymore I should stop. I just don’t see that ever happening.”