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Swimming and Diving: Howard third after first round

MINNEAPOLIS — Sam Howard finished in third place after Thursday’s preliminary round of the state Class A diving competition at the University of Minnesota pool.

Howard, a senior at Bemidji, scored 251.65 with his preliminary dives.

Brandon Pearson of Breck/Blake, who place 13th at last winter’s state meet, took a commanding lead after Thursday’s preliminaries as the senior scored 274.5. A distant second was Mathew Bethke of Sauk Rapids who tallied 261.35.

“But there are a bunch of guys within 20 points of each other battling for second and Sam is right where he needs to be,” said Bemidji coach Ryan Onstad. “Sam was consistent and is in a good position going into Saturday’s finals.

“Sam is in the hunt for second and there is a chance he can challenge for first if Pearson makes a mistake. So far so good,” the coach added.

Last year Howard finished ninth at the state meet.