Photos provided by Bill McAdow/Champions Illustrated 
Hamilton Heights senior Ivy Houser won the state title Saturday.
Photos provided by Bill McAdow/Champions Illustrated
Hamilton Heights senior Ivy Houser won the state title Saturday.
INDIANAPOLIS - The race was on.

Ivy Houser and 2016 state champion Jackie Brenn launched off the board for 11 dives in a neck-and-neck battle during Saturday's IHSAA Girls Swimming & Diving State Tournament. The race came down to an eight-point differential in the final three dives.

Hamilton Heights diving coach Steve Hoeferle calls Houser's last three dives her "money dives." The list includes a Forward ½ Somersault 1 Twist Free, Forward 2.5 Somersault Tuck and Inward 1.5 Somersault Pike.

Homestead sophomore Brenn shortened Houser's lead to six points after the first round of finals. She hit her Back ½ Somersault 1.2 Twist Free with a 53.75 and Houser scored a 51.7.

But the next dive would pretty much seal Houser's victory. Brenn had nailed her Back 1 Somersault 2.5 Twist Free. The judges gave her a 57.2. Houser was up by six and needed to deliver a near-flawless Forward 2.5 Somersault Tuck.

"She actually missed on her approach but she's so good that she pulled it out and did what she had to do to beat Jackie," Hoeferle said.

58.8 points later, Houser had a comfortable seven-point lead and was well on her way to victory. Each scored a 56 on their final dive and Houser had clinched the 2016 diving state title.

"It feels great," Houser said. "This is exactly what we were shooting for and we got it today."

Houser defeated Brenn 535.80-528.35. The two had dived against each other in regionals with Houser winning by over 60 points.

"Jackie was on fire today," Hoeferle said. "She showed why she won state last year - she's that good. When it comes down to the last round, what more could you ask for."

Brenn relinquished her 2016 title, which she won by a similar margin of seven points.

"She put up a good fight and she's a good diver," Houser said. "I'm glad it was her who got second."

This is Houser's first year of high school diving and her first state title, following in the footsteps of another Hamilton Heights diver, Brooke Schultz, who holds the state record with her 2015 title.

Similar to Schultz, Houser trains with the RipFest diving academy and has dived since she was four. Her goal for this season was to win all her meets and the state title.

The first word Hoeferle used to describe Houser's victory was 'relief.'

"It's pure relief," he said. "She's worked really hard for 12 years to come to this meet today and win. She works four to six hours a day to become a better diver. This season she's a better diver and a better person for the experience."

Houser had dived at the IU Natatorium for nine years when she was younger. There was no better place to finish her senior season.

"It's my home pool and I love competing here," she said. "It felt good to be back."

Noblesville senior diver Dayana Popa returned to state for her third time this year. After a missed dive in the preliminaries, Popa worked her way back to an 11th place.

"Even though one of my dives didn't go how I wanted it to, I focused on hitting my next dives and staying calm," Popa said. "I had nine more dives to go and I moved on."

She finished with a 434.35.

Fishers' Maddie Folta finished in fourth after just missing the finals cut last year, placing 17th. She put together a 476.35 11-dive score her final year.

"For her to come from not making finals last year to turn around and be on the stand is super awesome," Tiger diving coach Kristy Ford said. "It's just impressive to see a diver do something like that. The hard work that has gone into all of that and making that happen is incredible."

Hamilton Southeastern divers Sarah Ballard and Halli Siwik ended in ninth and 16th, respectively.