Not many of the entrants competing at the New Trier Winter Dive Classic invitational Saturday tried as many dives with the degree of difficulty that tested Evanston’s Aryeh Lesch.
Lesch’s diving list is still evolving for the 2019-20 season, and so is the ETHS sophomore, who is only in his second season in that specialty.
But his relative inexperience doesn’t prevent Lesch from attempting an ambitious agenda, and it didn’t stop him from earning a 4th place finish individually in the first 11-dive competition of the season for the Wildkits.
Lesch’s list Saturday featured 5 dives with a DOD — degree of difficulty in the sport’s lingo — of 2.5 or higher. He didn’t meet the challenge in every one of those attempts, but piled up 364 points to earn 4th in the 23-diver field and trailed only Jack White of Stevenson (443.85), John Ervin of New Trier (366.70) and Danny Silverstein of Stevenson (364.95) in the final standings.
Lesch is aiming high, trying to follow the recent tradition of state success by former Wildkit stars Harel Anolick and Trevor Nelson. That’s a lot to ask of a gymnast-turned-diver who had no experience prior to his freshman season, but no one can accuse Lesch of lacking ambition.
Certainly not ETHS diving coach Aaron Melnick.
“At the start of the season the divers tell me what they want to throw, and in Aryeh’s case, he wants an even higher degree of difficulty than he has right now,” Melnick explained. “He’s a very strong and powerful kid. And there’s no reason to have him go back to dives he could already throw last year.
“There are dives he feels he can get and right now I have to slow him down. That just tells me that he wants to be good, though. He has a great list right now, I think. He just has to get stronger with it. His required dives are just good — not aaahhh. He can get to State with his optional list, but he won’t be a top 12 finisher unless he develops the all-around picture more. We’re looking at the future, not just now.”
“This year, since our 2 best divers graduated, there’s more pressure on me. I’m trying to build up my list to make it as difficult as possible, so I can score more,” Lesch explained. “I added 4 new dives this season, and now I think they’re starting to come out cleaner and easier.
“There are still a couple more I’m thinking of adding to give me more of an advantage. Those are still in the works. I’m hoping to have a harder list by the conference meet.”
Lesch stood just 6th in the field after the first 5 dives, but climbed to 4th place with a list that includes a 3.0 degree of difficulty, a reverse 2 and a half somersault tuck.
“Today could’ve gone a little better,” he said. “Getting to have an 11-dive meet like this shows what I really need to work on now. That reverse 2 and a half is definitely my hardest dive and this is only the third time I’ve used it in a meet. It was the best one so far.
“I’m starting to get more confident with it, but I still have a long way to go.”
Evanston’s other entrant, junior Ethan Morady, made the finals cut and then settled for 16th place with a score of 269.60.