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Hard work pays off as Jillian Rastello wins Suffolk diving crown

Jillian Rastello of Sayville-Bayport-Blue Point competes in the

Jillian Rastello of Sayville-Bayport-Blue Point competes in the Suffolk County girls diving championship at Hauppauge High School on Thursday, April 22, 2021. She won the event with a score of 475.05. Credit: James Escher

A cheer went up as Sayville/Bayport-Blue Point’s Jillian Rastello hit the water after her 11th and final dive.

The Sayville junior had just put an exclamation point on an incredible season by winning the Suffolk girls diving championship with a score of 475.05 Thursday evening at Hauppauge High School.

"This has been awesome," Rastello said. "I dive about 25 hours a week, not just with high school but with my club that’s an hour away. It’s been a lot and I’ve been working really hard since July. I’ve gotten so much better. Last year was so different than this year."

Rastello also broke the school diving record with a score of 303.6 (six dives) on April 9 against West Babylon and then went on to have the highest score at the league championship meets last week.

"Day One we knew this season could be special," Sayville/Bayport-Blue Point diving coach Samantha Barilla said. "She didn’t slack off when the opportunity was there and she kept working hard."

After finishing eighth in Suffolk in 2018 and sixth in 2019, Rastello believed that she would be able to break through to the top this season.

"I definitely was expecting to do really well this year since I’ve been working so hard," Rastello said. "It’s definitely paid off."

The time away from the pool during the pandemic was tough for Rastello but it made her accomplishments the last few weeks even sweeter.

"I love diving and my biggest challenge was just not being able to do it," Rastello said. "Even though I’ve been working out at home and at the gym it’s been difficult. But going back on the board and getting in the water was the best feeling."

Connetquot’s Morgan Cassidy finished second with 456.50, Kyra Russ (451.40) of Sachem East was third , and Kelsey Kreuscher (429.30) of Connetquot was fourth.

Though there is no state championship this year, Rastello has proven herself to be the best in Suffolk and looks forward to the opportunity to challenge for a state championship next season.

"It makes me want to work even harder because this was a difficult meet," Rastello said. "The girls here were really good but I still want to get better."

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