Mehlville senior Shetley wins state diving championship

By STEPHEN GLOVER

Senior Laurie Shetley on Saturday ended a 24-year drought for Mehlville Senior High School when she won the state championship in the one-meter springboard competition at the St. Peters Rec-Plex.

Shetley is Mehlville’s first state champion in an individual swimming event since 1984. She captured the state championship with 420.15 points, 10.75 points more than second-place finisher Paige Meneses of Clayton. Shetley had taken 10th overall last season with 346.65 points and she placed 11th with 324 points as a sophomore.

“This is awesome,” first-year Mehlville head coach Kerri Blaha said. “I can’t take much credit for what she’s done because she’s worked so hard in the off-season. For her to win was just incredible.”

Going into the competition, Shetley knew that she had a chance of winning a state title, but it never really sank in until midway through the competition.

“I never dreamed of winning state,” she said. “I was just expecting for this to be a fun sport for me. I never expected being undefeated throughout the season and then winning state.”

Shetley has been diving for just three years. Before that, she had never set foot on a diving board. Instead, she competed in gymnastics beginning when she was 8 years old until a broken finger and a displaced hip forced an early exit from the sport when she was 14.

It wasn’t until friend and fellow diver Kelly Swartzbaugh of Lindbergh invited her to hit the boards one day that she became interested.

“My friend Kelly had quit gymnastics a few years before I did and invited me to come along one day,” Shetley said. “It was such a smooth transition for the most part.

“The only thing I really had to deal with was going from landing on my feet to landing on my head.”

At the state championships, Shetley essentially led from start to finish as her high degree of difficulty set the pace for the rest of the competition.

“I pretty much knew that if I could hit my first couple of dives, I knew I could be one of the leaders,” she said. “After that, I knew that I just had to keep a steady pace and take it one dive at a time.”

Shetley hopes to continue diving at the collegiate level as schools from around the nation are lining up to entice her to attend their school.

The Air Force Academy as well as universities in Arkansas, Nebraska, Eastern Michigan and Eastern Carolina are expressing interest in Shetley. She hopes to major in math, science, engineering or something in the medical field.

“Academics obviously are really important because if I get injured, you never know what will happen,” she said. “With two sisters also being in college the same time as me, a scholarship is important as well as a good diving program.”

With a state championship in hand, she hopes more athletes will be drawn to Mehlville’s swimming and diving program.

“I really hope that it has an effect on them,” Shetley said. “I hope that it brings out a lot of girls and boys to the team next year.”