THORNTON — Alaina Hellenberg is back to form.
St. Vrain Valley district diving coach Shawn Gregg, in fact, thinks the Skyline junior is better than ever, and she has the motivation within herself to get far in the Class 4A diving ranks after missing the state finals last season.
She proved just as much on Friday at the Mountain Range Mustang Diving Invitational — an event that gave her a great opportunity to dive with good competition and with some of her in-district friends.
Against mostly Class 5A competition at the Veterans Memorial Aquatics Center, Hellenberg placed ninth with a robust score of 376.40 points. It was exactly what Gregg wanted to see out of her.
"This year she's gotten stronger and she's doing modifications to her approach that are going to give her way more height, the type of stuff advanced divers do," Gregg said after watching Niwot's Maddie Barkow also place sixth overall. "Taking in new strategies to channel her power is the big thing.
"She has a good balance of keeping it fun for herself and doing a good job at making sure she nails things down."
Hellenberg knows what it's like to compete in the state finals, placing 12th as a freshman. However, finishing 21st overall as a sophomore and missing that final event by the slimmest of margins has her champing at the bit to improve in every possible way.
Nights like Friday certainly help more than a typical Skyline dual meet, when she's often diving alone as the only Falcon on the boards.
"Being the only one for Skyline is kind of hard at dual meets or away meets ... but here it's nice because I have teammates from St. Vrain around and we're just having fun," Hellenberg said. "I have a lot of motivation to learn new dives for the state meet.
"It was hard being the 21st when 20 people made it through. I'm putting my hardest dives at the beginning and getting them down. That's so I can get some points going and make it back to (finals)."
Getting to compete against the likes of Regis Jesuit's McKensi Austin (the defending Class 5A state champ) and Fairview's Julia Benz, Hellenberg wasn't intimidated in the least.
She was sixth heading to the final three dives on Friday night.
"I mixed up my dive list a lot and that made a difference because I had more (degree of difficulty) at the beginning and I executed on those ones," Hellenberg said. "Going up against 5A is a wake up call, because we compete a lot against girls who aren't even close to that level. I see what other girls are doing and it makes me really want to step up my own game."
The meet featured 38 divers at the start, and five of them were state placers from last year including Barkow. The Niwot junior already has a big win under her belt at the Colorado Coaches Invitational, but this round at VMAC saw her place sixth overall with 394.80 points.
Fifteen divers reached the 300-point plateau that represents qualifying for state. That 11-dive total must be reached twice in the regular season.
Mustang Diving Invitational
Final results — 1. McKensi Austin, Regis Jesuit, 513.00 points; 2. Julia Benz, Fairview, 471.60; 3. Taylor Clark, Legacy, 413.60; 4. Rachel Holland, Rocky Mountain, 405.05; 5. Mackenzie Blomquist, Pine Creek, 399.25; 6. Maddie Barkow, Niwot, 394.80; 7. Anne Marie Kenny, Regis Jesuit, 387.80; 8. Makenna Sanger, Windsor, 382.05; 9. Alaina Hellenberg, Skyline, 376.40; 10. Kathryn Conn, Broomfield, 375.75; 11. Christie Yee, Cherokee Trail, 359.50; 12. Nichole Shember, Fossil Ridge, 347.80; 13. Brooke Schimmels, Fossil Ridge, 336.10; 14. Sarah Fangrow, Cherokee Trail, 324.75; 15. Kayla Rosentrater, Horizon, 300.40; 16. Stephanie Molitor, Legacy, 284.10.