Auburn Riverside High School had an extremely productive fall sports season. Football, volleyball and soccer all made the state tournament for the first time all in the same season.
But senior diver Ava Lear might be the best story in the fall for the Ravens. On Nov. 9, Lear won the 3A WIAA State Dive Championship at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.
“I had no clue (I would win). It was an amazing experience,” Lear said.
As a senior, she has improved her placing at state every competition she could. In her freshman year, there was no state tournament due to COVID, and in her sophomore year she placed 12th. Last year, she made the leap to fifth place, setting her up for what would end up being a special senior campaign.
“That’s something that was super important to me. I look at progress as a very long-term goal and never ending. I always seek to improve. I didn’t have the mindset that I wanted to win this, but I wanted to be better than I was last year. That’s what took me here,” Lear said.
Her ability to improve is what makes her journey so special. She wasn’t a club diver until this past summer. She made a commitment after last year to join a club and work on her vertical off of the board.
“I got a lot more height…I don’t think I missed a single practice over the summer. It was pretty much all dedication,” she said.
Going into the final meet, Lear had the highest qualifying score at the 3A level, but didn’t want to put too much thought into that aspect.
“I knew I was first, but I knew there was competition,” Lear said.
Lear was faced with a worthy adversary in state, one who she was familiar with at the district level. Makenna Post is a senior out of Peninsula High School and gave Lear really good competition.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy feat. Post is a really good diver and had kind of been tough for four years. She’s been Ava’s archrival if you want to call it that,” coach Todd Wollenweber said.
At the state tournament, the competition is a series of 11 dives. There are three rounds before crowning a champion.
Lear had the highest score after the preliminary and semifinal rounds, putting her in a great position to win.
“I had done really well and beaten all of my personal records on the dives that I had done in the prelims. So I was feeling good going into the semifinals and finals,” Lear said.
Her coach knew from the start that Lear had a clear chance at the title.
“She was really ahead from dive number one. There were some ups and downs. Makenna hit some really nice dives… I told Ava, ‘You’re still there, we’re okay.’ I had to do my job as a judge still,” Wollenweber said.
“It was really scary though because it came down to my last three dives,” she said.
With those three dives coming up, she had a high degree of difficulty and so did her rival: “It was a matter of just nailing the dives,” Lear said.
“I was doing math in my head and I just needed 21 points. In my head I was just saying ‘Don’t fail this dive.’ Then when I came out of the water it was incredible,” Lear said.
When she hit the water on her final dive, she had it — a personal record and school record and a state title.
“Oh my god, I just did that. It was crazy,” was Lear’s reaction once she looked at the scoreboard.
Wollenweber was not really able to join the celebration right away because he had to judge the rest of the competition, but he still showed his emotions a little bit.
“I look over at Todd and he’s shaking, but he can’t do anything since he’s still judging. I look over at my mom and she’s crying, I’m almost crying. It was just crazy,” Lear said.
“It was so exciting, I knew she had it,” Wollenweber said. “It was nice to look at the scoreboard and see it as being official.”
Lear was back to work once the season had ended as well with the goal of swimming at the college level.
“I want to and am thinking of doing college dive. I’m hoping to walk on the team (at BYU),” Lear said.
To be able to dive at that next level is going to take a lot of time and effort. But Lear is up to the task.
“She’s getting back to work right away. We’re going to work on a different and bigger one meter list and work on a three-meter dive as well,” Wollenweber said.
Lear said: “I just want to see that we keep moving forward after I graduate.”