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Friday, July 23, 2004
Ex-pitcher's daughter leads two Olympians

Associated Press

MISSION VIEJO, Calif. -- Brittany Viola led qualifiers in the women's 10-meter platform Friday at the U.S. National Diving Championships, topping a pair of 2004 Olympians.

Viola finished ahead of Sara Hildebrand, who will represent the United States in the 10-meter platform synchronized event in the Olympics next month in Athens. Viola had 523.59 points to 502.95 for Hildebrand.

Laura Wilkinson, the 2000 Olympic platform champion, was third with 500.22 points after the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds. The finals are Sunday.

Wilkinson has won national 10-meter platform titles the last two years and five of the last seven.

The meet is the final tuneup before the Olympics next month at Athens.

Kyle Prandi was the leading qualifier in the men's 10-meter platform, outscoring Caesar Garcia 623.91 to 585.42. Matt Bricker was third at 577.62.

The top eight qualifiers advanced to Saturday's final. Prandi and Garcia will represent the United States at the Olympics, with Prandi competing in the synchronized platform event with Mark Ruiz, and Garcia entered in the platform.

Viola, the 17-year-old daughter of former Minnesota Twins pitcher Frank Viola, finished second behind Wilkinson at the Olympic trials last month and won't be joining her in Athens.

"This is just another meet for me, really," said Viola, whose father watched her dive Friday. "I've been diving really well and practicing hard, trying to be really consistent with my dives, which I think showed today."

Viola, of Orlando, Fla., said she wasn't disappointed after missing out on an Olympic team berth at the trials in June.

"I was really happy with it," she said of her second-place finish. "I couldn't have been mad at myself about that."

Wilkinson, a 12-time national champion from Spring, Texas, was second behind Viola after the quarterfinal round. She dropped to third after Hildebrand recorded two 10.0 scores from the judges on the eighth of her nine dives, a back 1½ with a twist.

Viola said she turns away when her rivals dive.

"I never really watch the other divers and I never hear their scores or anything. I make sure I look the other way," she said.