Alexa Akers
Alexa Akers
There are a few similarities between the Noblesville athletes competing in this weekend's IHSAA Girl's Swimming & Diving State Tournament this weekend.

Alexa Akers and Dayana Popa are both seniors at Noblesville High School. Both have been to state two times before. And both hit their season best at the sectional meet.

Akers swam a :56.97 in the 100 butterfly, placing fourth in the Carmel sectional and passing the state cut of :57.07.

"She wanted to go out with a great swim," Miller head swim coach Rich Wolfred said. "We just wanted her to swim her fastest race and see what happened."

Four seconds off her normal race time is what happened. She hadn't swam under a minute during the regular season but the adrenaline kicked in at sectionals. With her :56.97, she is seeded 19th at state. The top 16 advance to the finals.

"We want to make top 16 and a lot of times those are within 10ths and 100ths of each other so anything can happen," Wolfred said.

To give a good example, the top 9-19 seeds have variations of 56 seconds.

However, with Akers' two previous years at state, she knows the kind of competition. She made the 100 fly her sophomore year before an injury held her back her junior year. She finished 24th. She went with the 200 medley relay team both her sophomore and junior year. She also raced in the 400 free last year.

"It gives you experience with fast swimming and knowing what to expect when you get there," Wolfred said of her previous state qualifications.

Noblesville diver, Dayana Popa, also hit her season best at the sectional meet. She scored a 465.10 and placed second.

"She did one dive at a time and focused on doing everything to the best of her ability," Miller head diving coach Chelsea Ale said of the sectional meet. "She was having fun and relaxed. She found her groove."

Similar to Akers, she also was suffering an injury last year but made it to state her freshman and sophomore years. She finished sixth her sophomore year, with an 11-dive score of 430.75.

"As soon as I first saw her dive, I thought she could be a finalist at state," first-year coach Ale said. "She's a great girl, great diver and hard worker."

Ale said she has grown in confidence and comfort throughout the year. But the biggest thing is the details.

"Her biggest improvement throughout the season was focusing on the details," she said. That's what takes the divers to the next level."

Popa finished fifth at regionals and will kick off state diving at 9 a.m. Saturday.

"I definitely think she has the potential to get top three, so I'd love to see that happen but as long as she goes into it and gets her personal best and that's the best she can do then that's the most important thing," Ale said.