Darton's No. 1-ranked duo of divers, Crawford Berry, left, and Kelsey Carniglia take to the pool today in the region championship with their eyes on winning a title and advancing to nationals.
ALBANY — Crawford Berry admits it: He’s obsessed with diving.
That obsession has taken the Darton freshman to the peak of the junior college rankings, where he sits No. 1 in both the 1-meter and 3-meter entering today’s Region XVII meet at Darton.
And he isn’t alone at top.
Darton freshman Kelsey Carniglia is the No. 1-ranked women’s diver in the NJCAA in both the 1-meter and 3-meter, giving the Cavs their first top-ranked divers in the history of their program.
“Sometimes divers perform better when they can relax and just dive with no pressure,” Darton diving coach Drew Aultman said. “But these two perform better under pressure and when they are being judged. They rise to the occasion when it counts.”
This season was the first time Aultman has been able to recruit divers, and the Cavs claimed the No. 1 ranking in each of the NJCAA diving events after sweeping the four dives in last weekend’s meet in Birmingham, Ala.
For Berry, a native of Alpharetta, the journey to No. 1 has been more than a decade in the making.
He started diving when he was 6 years old and then got serious about the sport two years ago when he started competing in USA Diving with the club team at Georgia Tech.
“Now whenever I’m in my dorm, I’m always watching diving videos on Youtube,” Berry said. “I’ve been hard-core obsessed with diving the past two years. My roommate didn’t know much about diving, and now he says he knows more than he ever will need to.”
Aultman said Berry’s dedication to the sport is what puts him over the top.
“Crawford is not only talented, but he is hungry,” Aultman said. “He works for this and comes in every day with a great attitude and ready to get to work. You want to work with an athlete like that, who not only has the natural ability to excel but also has the desire to win.”
Carniglia, a native of Duluth, spent a dozen years as a gymnast before taking up diving in between her freshman and sophomore years of high school. She came to Darton as a walk-on but has emerged ahead of scholarship diver Sarah Hoop, who is currently ranked No. 3 in the 3-meter and No. 5 in the 1-meter.
“I’ve been working so hard for this and have come so far,” Carniglia said. “Looking back at videos from the beginning of the year, it’s like I’m a completely different diver. My goal at the beginning of the year was a national championship, and I’m just going to keep working for it.”
Neither Berry nor Carniglia will have any region competitors today because the state’s only other junior college swimming program, South Georgia College, doesn’t have a diving team, but the duo has already qualified for next month’s national tournament.
Hoop and members of the Darton swimming team, who are ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation in their respective events, will be able to use today’s meet, which begins at 1 p.m., to move up in the rankings and qualify for the national tournament.
DARTON, ALBANY TECH GET BIG REGION WINS:
ALBANY — Darton’s Michelle Mitchell led Darton with 20 points, Kadayasha Jones added 14 and Chanteniece Fann chipped in 10 on Wednesday during a 64-44 rout of local rival South Georgia Tech.
The win not only put Darton, which moved up to No. 15 in the national rankings earlier Wednesday, in first place in region at 14-2 but also improved the Lady Cavs to 22-3 overall. It was Darton’s third straight win and 12th victory in its last 13 games.
Jasmine Wilson didn’t hit a bucket Wednesday, but she did just about everything else for Darton with eight assists, five steals and seven rebounds to go along with no turnovers from the guard. Portia McCray led South Georgia Tech with 16 points.
Albany Tech’s women beat region No. 2 Central Georgia Tech on Wednesday, and since CGT was in second place in the region behind Darton, the upset win by the Lady Titans gives Darton a two-game cushion in the standings with just four regular-season games left on their schedule — and all four are at home.
Darton begins to close out its regular season Saturday against Georgia Perimeter.
ATC MEN, WOMEN SWEEP CENTRAL GEORGIA TECH: The Albany Tech women upset region No. 2 Central Georgia Tech on Wednesday, 61-57, to give the Lady Titans just their fifth region victory of the season. Ashley Towns (22 points) and Lashay Lettingham (14 points, 11 rebounds) led the way as ATC improved to 12-12 overall and 5-9 in the conference.
The Lady Titans didn’t move up in the region playoff seeding with the win, but the victory did put a firm grasp on the final seed in the No. 8 spot with just a couple games left.
On the men’s side, the Titans held off CGT, 67-66, for a big region win. The Titans were led by Nohoum Boucoum (18 points, 6 rebounds), Arabian Williams (15 points, 6 assists) and Antwon Tuff (10) points as ATC improved to 8-16 overall and 4-10 in region. Like the women, the ATC men also are holding onto that eighth and final playoff spot with Middle Georgia coming to town Saturday for a pair of games starting at 2 p.m. at ASU’s HPER Gym.
GSW SOFTBALL SWEEPS ASU:
ALBANY --- The Lady Hurricanes earned a two-game sweep against Albany State on Wednesday afternoon as a strong pitching effort led GSW to a 9-1 win in five innings in the first and a 3-0 second game shutout victory.
The Lady Hurricanes jumped out to a 7-0 lead over the first two innings of the opening game on their way to an easy 9-1 victory in a shortened five-inning contest.
Avery Purser led GSW (3-2) with three hits while Mason Moreland and Hayley Knight had two a piece for the Blue & Gold.
Southwestern's starter Allison Pastor (2-1) tossed four innings and gets her second win of the season.
In the second game of the doubleheader, GSW scored a run in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings and a strong pitching effort by starting pitcher Ashley Cavender led the Lady Hurricanes to a shutout 3-0 victory.
Janna Anderson and former Lee County star Hayley Knight led Georgia Southwestern (4-2) with two hits apiece.
Cavender (1-0) tossed for 6.1 innings with five strikeouts as the sophomore picked up her first-ever victory.
A strong pitching effort gave the Blue & Gold the first shutout victory of the 2013 season
Over the two-game span, the Lady 'Canes gave up a single run on just eight hits.
Georgia Southwestern (4-2) is back in action Saturday as GSW opens up their 2013 home slate in a doubleheader against Rollins College.
First pitch is at 2 p.m. with the second game following at 4 p.m. at Lady 'Canes Field.
ASU (2-2) returns to the field at home Friday against Rollins College.
FOLDS LEADS GSW BASEBALL TO 2-1 WIN:
AMERICUS - Georgia Southwestern freshman pitcher Dylan Folds threw three innings of scoreless relief in his first collegiate appearance as the Hurricanes rallied for a 2-1 victory over Shorter University on Wednesday evening.
GSW (1-3) picked up its first win of the young season while Shorter drops to 0-4.
The Hawks broke a scoreless game in the fifth inning behind a pair of walks, a double steal and a Jesse Gavigan sacrifice fly.
Neal Chambless opened the sixth inning for GSW with a chopper down the left-field line that he was able to stretch into a double. After a wild pitch moved Chambless to third, Corey Benson found a hole between the pitcher's mound and third base with his dribbler for the Hurricanes first run of the game.
Randall Sheffield, Michel Coffey and Chambless delivered back-to-back-to-back singles in the seventh inning to set up the game-winning score. Sheffield scored when Stephen Eldridge was hit by a pitch.
Folds (1-0) held the Hawks to one hit over the sixth, seventh and eighth innings and struck out a batter. Ryan Mosley came on to earn the save in the ninth. GSW starting pitcher Justin Lott tossed five innings, held the Hawks to two hits, walked five and struck out four.
Russell Crosby (0-2) took the loss for Shorter after allowing one run in 1/3 of an inning. Shorter starter Ben Stell threw six innings, allowed six hits and gave up a run.
Chambless finished with a 3-for-4 to lead GSW hitters.
The Hurricanes return to the diamond on Friday to entertain West Alabama. First pitch is set for 5 p.m.