November 23, 2016 at 10:55 a.m.
She finished in 17th place last year, just one spot away from advancing to the semi-finals, and to get on to the podium, she needed to jump nine spots. She did more than just jump. She leapfrogged a lot of competition and sprung all the way up to third place in state in her final diving meet for Chisago Lakes.
“Coming into the meet, I knew where I wanted to be and with it being my third time there, I felt more calm and confident in my dives,” Nelson said after the meet.
She was sitting well in fifth place after the prelims, but was within striking distance of two of the girls in front of her. She overtook both of them, Taryn Longshore of Faribault and Kapani Kirkland of Visitation in the semi-finals.
She knew she could track down Kirkland, as Nelson had beaten the Blazer in sections to win the 4A title.
Nelson had an impressive semis run, scoring 96.25 points, which was behind only leader Saylor Hawkins and Camryn Appert of Fergus Falls.
The combination of the two nice routines placed her in third going into the finals with a score of 263.25. She was behind Hawkins, who was starting to pull away even at that point, and Claire Boschee of Sartell, who had 272.35 points.
“I know when I ended the way I did in prelims and semis that I could possibly earn a top three spot,” Nelson said. “It was such an exciting feeling.”
In her first dive of the finals, Nelson kept her degree of difficulty low but nailed the dive, staying in third place despite a couple of strong dives around her.
On her second dive, the DD jumped slightly and Nelson still stuck the dive, giving her a little bit of a cushion.
In the final dive of the round, a couple of the girls close to Nelson’s score hit impressive dives, putting some pressure on her to really perform.
Her final dive was her highest degree of difficulty of the round, and she didn’t even bat an eye. She executed the dive flawlessly, hitting every spot on the way down to the water, sealing her spot in the top three. “It was such a mix of emotion doing my last dive,” she said. “I was sad because it was the very last dive of my high school career but it was a happy outcome and it made me realize how far I’ve come!”
There was a late charge from Emma Disse of Detroit Lakes, who hit a ridiculous 54 point dive to close the meet, but Nelson had built up enough of a cushion that she beat Disse by three points still.
After all the points were tallied, Nelson finished in third place with 363.25 points, just ahead of Disse’s 360.75. Hawkins, of Breck, won the meet with a score of 433.75. Boschee got second with 408.45 points.
“Payton's focus and determination were awesome. An average dive in the finals could drop any of those divers down significantly in the standings,” Head Coach Ellen Heath said. “Payton' composure and focus under that pressure was excellent - her last three dives were really great dives.”
“I’d like to thank my parents, coaches and teammates,” Nelson said, “Especially my parents. “They inspire me every day to be the best that I can be!”
Olson breaks school record
Senior Kalli Jo Olson had a disappointing state tournament by her standards. She was so close to the podium last year, and her goal was two-fold; to make the podium and to get under one minute in her 100 backstroke time.
If it wasn’t for a very fast field this year, Olson may very well have hit both goals, but as things stand, she fell just short on both.
She was, however, able to break her personal best record in the first round.
In the prelims, she came in 11th place with a time of 1:00.17. That time would have put her in the finals last year, but sub-one minute times went 10 deep in this field, leaving her on the outside looking in.
In the finals, Olson hit a lane line on her turn, and that heavily affected her performance. She finished in 1:00.48 to come in 11th place and just short of her sub-one minute goal.
“Kalli Jo swam some great races. Her preliminary time was a school record and personal best,” Heath said. “In the finals she cut her foot on the second turn when she hit the lane line. She finished strong in spite of the adversity and held her 11th place she earned in preliminaries.”
Nelson’s third place earned Chisago Lakes 22 team points, which was enough to put them in 25th place in the team competition. Section 4A foe Visitation won the team title for the eighth time in the last 11 years with 261 points.
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