Division II Cleveland State District boys diving: University's Schoenbrun, Napolitano undeterred by additional hurdles en route to state

Feb. 14—There are enough hurdles to overcome throughout the winter as a diver.

University's Zachary Schoenbrun and Beau Napolitano can add a couple more for good measure — albeit in differing ways for the juniors.

For Schoenbrun, it was a tricky mental hurdle. For Napolitano, it's hurdles the world over in his other winter pursuit.

In both cases Feb. 14 during the Division II Cleveland State District boys diving competition, considered all the hurdles mastered.

Schoenbrun and Napolitano paced a four-diver News-Herald coverage area contingent for next week's state meet in Canton, along with teammate Joseph Sullivan and Lake Catholic's Tino Perkovic.

It will be the first state trip for Schoenbrun and the second straight for Napolitano.

Before dissecting Schoenbrun's fifth-place finish with a score of 327.55, his journey coming into CSU's Busbey Natatorium must be shared first.

The reason Schoenbrun is a first-time state qualifier as a junior is because this was his first postseason. Reverse dives were a mental block that rendered him unable to have a complete dive set — until this season, that is.

"This is really special," Schoenbrun said. "For two years, I didn't have my reverse dive. We worked up to it, and just the hard work paid off. So it was really good.

"Just hard work in practice every day. Never give up. Just keep your best foot forward every day. I still remember the date: It was January 11 of this year. And basically, I kind of just threw it off the board. It just felt great. My teammates jumped in the water with me. It was great. It was a really fun day."

‍♂️ Here are all 11 dives from University's Zachary Schoenbrun as he takes 5th in the D2 CSU District with a 327.85 for his 1st career state berth

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) February 15, 2024

Once that hurdle was overcome, Schoenbrun was on his way. In his CSU debut, the junior concluded with a flourish in the final round to vault into that fifth, the Preppers' 13th district diving top five since 1999.

He logged a pair of 34s and a meet-high 38.40 to close on his 11th dive, a forward 2 1/2 tuck.

"I've been practicing this dive forever, and it's just my bread and butter, so I just knew I had to do it," Schoenbrun said. "And I did it."

Napolitano's additional hurdle is much different.

‍♂️ Here are all 11 dives from University's Beau Napolitano as he takes 7th in the D2 CSU District with a 306.85 for his 2nd career state berth

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) February 15, 2024

He balancing diving duties in the winter, and of course a US student workload, with being in the youth pipeline for the United States national freestyle ski team.

"It's definitely very hectic," Napolitano said. "I had US Nationals for a week, maybe a week and a half. Then I went out to the World Cup for another week for aerial freestyle skiing. So then, I had to come right back here and start practicing and get all my dives lined up. So it was definitely very hectic.

"You've kind of just got to wing it every once in a while, you know? You've just got to make sure you get it all done one way or the other. You've got to get it done."

The goal for Napolitano this deep into the U.S. system is the ultimate stage of the Olympics one day.

"My coaches and I, I think I'm on the correct track to be on the U.S. team — probably not by 2026 (in Italy). That would be really ambitious," Napolitano said. "But hopefully by the following Winter Olympics (in 2030)."

In the present at CSU, Napolitano had a pair of 34-plus dives, a 35.20 in Round 2 and a 34.10 in Round 9 on an inward 1 1/2 tuck that was an encouraging start to the final round. His 306.85 marks a 29.30 improvement from when he was eighth in district competition in 2023.

"It's definitely pretty encouraging, especially because of my results last year, where I got knocked out in the first round (at state)," Napolitano said. "Hopefully, I'll be able to get to the final round and maybe place and get a medal.

"(That inward 1 1/2 tuck) I've been struggling on for a while. But I managed to just cowboy it around, I guess, and dive it in nicely."

He has progressively improved his CSU placement throughout his three tries as well, from 12th as a freshman to eighth to this seventh and a return state engagement.

"Actually, the nerves were a little bit more (this year), I guess you could say," Napolitano said. "There was more pressure on me to place well and score high, because I'm a junior now, an inspiration to the younger athletes."

Now that their additional hurdles have been overcome, the duo along with Sullivan will ensure there is plenty of US representation on the board at the venerable Branin Natatorium for state. After graduating 2023 D-II state runner-up Cam Bizjak, having a trio of young divers state-bound from Hunting Valley will be a welcome sight.

"It's amazing," Schoenbrun said. "These guys have been with me since I started. So it's really great."

Added Napolitano: "Hopefully, this is a good sign for the future teams. But it's definitely pretty cool."

‍♂️ Here are all 11 dives from Lake Catholic's Tino Perkovic as he takes 8th in the D2 CSU District with a 300.10 for his 2nd career state berth

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) February 15, 2024

Perkovic will head to state for the second straight season after a steady performance for much of the evening session, taking eighth with a 300.10, a 62.30 ascent from when he was 13th at CSU last winter. The Lake Catholic junior had his best work in prelims, including a 36.30 in Round 4 on a forward double tuck.

‍♂️ Lake Catholic's Tino Perkovic discusses securing a return engagement at state by taking 8th with a 300.10 at the D2 CSU District

Like I mention there, I admire the young man's compartmentalization mindset when a dive doesn't go ideally, such as 11th here — it serves him well

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) February 15, 2024

Sullivan was 10th with a 292.20.