LEWISBURG — Jason Erdeljac saved his bread-and-butter dive for when it meant the most. And, boy did it ever.

Erdeljac scored a 54.60 on his final dive — an inward double — to earn a fourth-place finish at the PIAA Class AAA diving championships Thursday at Bucknell University’s Kinney Natatorium. Erdeljac finished with 417.60 points.

Erdeljac entered the final dive tied for fifth place 10 points ahead of the sixth-place diver and 15 up on the seventh- and eighth-place divers.

“That’s part of Jason’s makeup,” Meadville diving coach Tim Riggs said. “When it counted he was there. And that’s what it’s all about.”

Like a year ago, when Erdeljac went from 18th after the preliminaries to a 10th-place finish, the MASH junior struggled to get it going during the first few dives, winding up 10th after the first round with a score of 31.45 — nearly 10 points back of the leader Brodie Moore of McDowell. Three dives later, though, Erdeljac tallied a 45.60 on an inward pike to move up to seventh and within medal contention.

“I think it was nerves at first,” Riggs said. “Then he got settled in and was like, ‘OK. I can dive.’ There’s a lot of pomp and circumstance, and he’s getting used to it. He handled it better than last year.”

Erdeljac moved into sixth place during the first round of the semifinals and was in fifth place at the end of eighth rounds. He was three-tenths of a point back of the fourth-place diver, David Giambra of Pennsbury, who ended up finishing with silver.

Erdeljac scored 91.35 points on his final two dives to lock up fourth place.

“Those dives were dives I was real comfortable with,” Erdeljac said. “I kind of just said, ‘Hey, I got it.’

“I felt really comfortable with my last dive. I had no pressure and that’s what helped me. If they were different dives it could have been a little different.”

The inward double was the same dive Erdeljac scored a personal-best of 60-plus points on during the District 10 championships. The dive helped Erdeljac score a district- and school-record 493.15, which had him seeded first for the state championships.

Defending state champion Dave Roberts of Perkiomen Valley , however, came away with the gold medal after a near flawless performance. Roberts tallied 513.85 points — 115.70 of which came during his last two dives. Giambra was second (444.15) and Parkland’s Collin Forner finished third (426.15).

“He’s not unbeatable,” Riggs said. “But he performed very well. It helps with strategizing a bit. You look at the dives he did and you come back next year. And if (Jason) works hard during the offseason, who knows where he can be.

“Jason’s a competitor. He’s thinking about next year.”

Exactly.

“I’m already thinking about what dives I need to do next year,” Erdeljac said. “I’m ready to come back next year.”

Erdeljac’s performance this year was sensational given the adversity he had to overcome. In fact, Erdeljac missed part of the regular season with a pair of stress fractures and an out-of-place disk in his back. He still suffers from all three injuries.

“Jason’s (degree of difficulty) could have been a lot higher; we wanted it to be a lot higher,” Riggs said. “We had to work around an injury.

“It’s tough for him and it’s tough for me, because we weren’t allowed to do too many dives. We were limited with his workload and I’m a guy that believes you’ve got to do the work and it’s got to be quality. So it was tough for me and Jason.”

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