Photo: David McGregor Parkview senior diver Sean Piner is the Gwinnett Daily Post's Diver of the Year after placing second in the Class AAAAA state diving finals for the third year in a row. Piner will continue his diving career next season at the University of Louisville.
Being the second-best prep diver in Georgia doesn't hurt.
That isn't what got Sean Piner enough notice to be offered a Division I scholarship.
"They'll know, but high school season doesn't mean too much to most colleges," the Parkview senior said. "If you're an All-American diver, that adds in a little bit more. But it's more USA Diving."
Piner started diving as a freshman and didn't get into USA Diving until late in his sophomore year.
It clicked for him then, that this would be his devotion. It wasn't just something to try.
"I got to compete against a lot better guys than I did in just the state of Georgia and it really told me I needed to work harder and showed me what I needed to do," he said.
Piner, the Daily Post's county diver of the year for the third straight time, wouldn't be going to a Division I school on scholarship if he'd stuck with baseball.
He has no illusions about it.
"I'm glad I decided to stop playing baseball and start diving," Piner said. "Obviously it was the better choice for me, but I still miss it."
After picking up the sport much later than most, Piner had to work to get his name out there.
"Me and my mom were sending out emails to colleges I was interested in," he said. "I did well diving over the summer, too, so that put my name out there."
Runner-up to champ Jack Nyquist at state for the third straight time, Piner qualified for age-group nationals on the 1- and 3-meter boards and for Speedo Nationals on the platform last summer. To make Speedo Nationals, Piner first had to be among the top 15 at regionals. That earned him a spot at zones. From there the top six make Speedo Nationals and the next six go to age-group nationals.
Piner won the 1-meter event at age-group nationals.
"Then on 3-meter, I messed up one dive and missed finals by a couple of points," he said. "On platform I didn't make the finals, but I think I placed like 25th."
Before he started talking to any colleges, Piner had his heart set on an SEC school.
"My cousin is a diver too and she's at LSU so I really wanted to go up there with her," he said. "But money was a big part of my decision. Most of the schools in the SEC didn't have much money for me."
He wasn't interested in Louisville. Until he went on a recruiting trip.
"Then I loved it," Piner said.
He also visited Wisconsin, Penn State and Minnesota.
The offers varied from school to school. Some wouldn't have been enough for his family to afford.
And Piner wanted to go out of state.
He loved Louisville, the city and the school. Yet it wasn't until a few days before the fall signing period that Piner made up his mind.
"Either I had to commit and take the money they had offered me or wait and see if I could get another school to take me," he said. "But they ended up upping their offer a little bit, which made it a lot easier. So I just committed right there."
Louisville is ranked 12th in the national polls this season and is sending a school-record 13 swimmers to the NCAA championships March 22-24. One diver is competing this week to join the rest of the Cardinals in Federal Way, Wash.
"The coach up there keeps telling me that I need to get up there so I can help out the team," Piner said. "He says they need me, but they won Big East championships the past couple years. So I'm excited."