MINNEAPOLIS -- Aiden Saari brought home an 11th-place finish from the Class A state diving meet Thursday night in Minneapolis. The Bemidji High School senior scored a 335.7 in the finals at the University of Minnesota’s Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center.
Saari’s finals score and final ranking are both improvements from his state debut last season. He placed 14th with a finals score of 304.9 last year as a junior.
“It wasn’t my best showing ever, but I am happy with how I dove,” Saari said. “My goal was just to go and have fun. Top eight was like a maybe, but I wasn’t stressing it, so I’m pretty happy with getting 11th place.”
“I would say he left some points on the table but he dove well,” BHS diving coach Sam Howard added. “There’s definitely some dives that he could have hit on a little bit better than he did, but I’m so proud of the score he got. He moved up from last year.”
This season’s meet was conducted with an accelerated schedule compared to most years. The Class A prelims, semifinals and finals were all held Thursday evening, instead of being spread out over two days.
“I actually prefer when it’s all happening all at once because I’m already in the zone, I’m already in the mental space to dive,” Saari said. “That is how we normally do it anyways for dual meets and such. It wasn’t any worse or better. Two-day events, I’m happy with those too.”
Saari ranked 13th after his first five dives in the prelims to progress to the semifinals. He advanced to the state finals by compiling a score of 232.95 to sit 12th through his first eight dives. The senior climbed one spot in the finals by notching a 335.7 on his three dives.
“He was patient with his approaches,” Howard said. “He hit almost all of his front approaches. He just needed to clean up all of his bottoms. If he could have done that, he could have definitely jumped up to top eight. But all of his inward dives were spot on.”
Storm Opdahl of Chisago Lakes earned his second straight Class A state diving title by netting a first-place score of 462.05.
Due to pandemic restrictions, spectators were not allowed at this year’s meet. Competitors also needed to stay spaced apart inside the venue and were unable to sit with their coaches.
“The divers did cheer for each other, but it was just courtesy claps if anything,” Saari said. “There wasn’t any emotion in the stadium. I do prefer when there are people there.”
Saari’s mother drove him to the meet and watched the live stream from a hotel nearby. His father watched the stream from home.
“Not ideal, but they made it work,” Saari said.
Saari caps his high school diving career as a Section 5A champion and runner-up in back-to-back seasons.
“This was my last year of diving, so I thought I had a pretty good season overall,” Saari said while crediting the coaches he’s worked with over the years. “I had quite a few PRs this year. I’m just happy with my performance at sections and at state.”
Bemidji will be well represented in the swimming portion of the Class A state meet on Saturday, March 20. Seven Lumberjack swimmers qualified for the state meet across five events.
Swimming for Sections 1, 3 and 5 is scheduled to start at noon on Saturday.