Heading into this year's diving season, Marian Catholic's Joey Cifelli isn't thinking about who his competition might be come state finals time. And that's saying something from a junior diver who is a veteran to the state finals in two seasons as a varsity diver.
Cifelli is instead more focused on breaking a score of 500, and that would be quite a feat for the junior who recorded a 443.60 at state last year.
"This year, I really want to break 500 in the score," Cifelli said. "That's pretty much my goal for this year at state. I want to win, too, because I know the divers I'm competing against, and I know there's a chance that I can do that."
Breaking 500 would put Cifelli in line to capture his first state title. He finished second at the state finals less than four points behind Normal University's Brandis Heffner last year as a sophomore. Cifellis said his second-place finish was a nice surprise.
"I messed up a couple of dives and I didn't lose by much, Cifelli said. "But I wasn't really expecting to come in and win. I kinda just wanted to see what happened and see where I ended up. I wasn't that worried about winning. When I got second place, I was pretty happy."
Cifelli is the hands-down favorite heading into the Homewood-Flossmoor Sectional on February 22. He has won the sectional diving crown the past two seasons, and he's halfway through a four-year sweep of the sectional diving championships.
Cifelli dives for a Marian Catholic program that does not field a full diving team, nor does it compete in a full schedule, but Cifelli feels he's not at a disadvantage. Cifelli will only compete in four meets this season, one of which will be the Homewood-Flossmoor Invitational on February 15th, one week before the Homewood-Flossmoor Sectional.
"I only do three meets a season," Cifelli said. "It really doesn't bother me that much. At the H-F diving meet, I get to see a lot of the divers that place high at state, and I know a lot of the divers through competition. So I don't worry too much about who I'm really going against at the state level."
Cifelli believes the loss of a number of the potential meets and competitions of a full team schedule doesn't affect his diving or overall performance over the long haul.
"A lot of people think that it's a disadvantage that I don't have a team," Cifelli said. "But I get to practice a lot more with my club team. I'm still getting a lot of work done, and it really doesn't bother me that I don't get to do a lot of high school meets."