Wantagh's Victoria Zozzaro participates in the Nassau girls swimming and...

Wantagh's Victoria Zozzaro participates in the Nassau girls swimming and diving team championship on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014. Credit: Richard T. Slattery

There was a very loud, tinny clang before Victoria Zozzaro's final dive. Officially, it was feedback from the sound system at the Nassau Aquatic Center. Unofficially, it sounded like the dramatic swell filmmakers use to create tension.

Zozzaro stepped back on the spring board, as if jostled from a reverie, and broke into a nervous grin. She then proceeded to execute the final, most difficult dive of the night during what would become the biggest moment of her high school career.

Zozzaro, a Wantagh senior, nailed her inward double somersault tuck -- a dive with a 2.8 difficulty level -- to win the Nassau diving title and etch her name into the county record books. Her final score of 550.80, earned on 11 dives, broke Herricks' Nicole Honey's 2010 record of 543.10. Hewlett's Rayna Smilowitz came in second with a 509.10.

"That loud noise . . . I was worried she wasn't going to be able to focus," Wantagh coach Chris Rafferty said, beaming. "She did it."

Smilowitz and Zozzaro easily made the state-qualifying score of 409.55. Joining them in Ithaca later this month will be East Meadow's Caroline Tighe (466.00) and Jericho's Renee Lee (434.05).

Zozzaro had a commanding lead before the midway point, with a 261.25 while Smilowitz, her perpetual companion, earned a 229.00 on five dives. In the first round, Zozzaro's back 11/2 somersault, 11/2 twist, earned her 9s. Smilowitz's second dive, a near-flawless back tuck -- earned equally high marks.

Rafferty said Zozzaro had had her eye on the county record since last week, when she earned a 535.80, and though she had a 399.90 after eight dives Wednesday, the math said it was going to be tight.

Dive scores are based on difficulty level, and though her ninth dive earned her 9.5s, the difficulty level, a 1.5, meant she'd need to nail the last two to have a shot. That included a reverse, 11/2 somersault tuck, a dive she had trouble with last week, and that final dive, which had a difficulty level .4 higher than any dive attempted Wednesday night.

"That's a big dive," said her diving coach George Taylor before the final round. "But she can do it. All she has to do is be patient, be balanced, and she has to be focused."

He had no idea how true that would prove to be.

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