Evanston’s Harel Anolick and Trevor Nelson both made it through the state’s toughest diving sectional to the Illinois High School Association state finals last season.
But so did Loyola Academy’s Chris Canning — who finished 3rd overall at State — and Niles North’s Max Rayzen — who finished 4th.
All four divers are back this year, and for the Wildkit duo that didn’t make it to the finals, it’s important that they’re not intimidated by the task of trying to compete with the top two returning diving specialists state-wide.
Both Anolick and Nelson, in a sport where an individual’s mindset goes a long way toward their success, say they’re ready to embrace the challenge again this winter. Saturday, they earned a 3-7 finish at the New Trier Dive Classic as Royzen (552.00 points) and Canning (529.15) sizzled in an 11-dive mid-season competition.
Canning combined with teammate Alex O’Toole (5th at 443.50) to beat out the ETHS duo for the combined “team” title, as Anolick racked up a score of 496.30 and Nelson took 7th at 428.15.
Anolick, a junior, doesn’t plan to wait until next year to challenge for the top spot and believes he’ll be right in the championship mix this year with the two seniors. And Nelson is also aiming at a spot in the top 12 at State by the end of the year.
“Overall I think we did OK today,” said ETHS diving coach Aaron Melnick. “This is about individuals finding their spots and doing their comparisons as to where they can be at State. Maxim and Chris are the top two guys back, but these guys dive against each other all year long and they know they can all beat each other, depending on the meet. It’s just a matter of who hits their dives at the right time.
“If Chris has a big meet at State, he’ll win it. If Maxim has a big meet at State, he’ll win it. And if Harel has a big meet at State, HE’LL win it.”
“Maxim has improved drastically from last year,” Anolick praised, “but I’ve been diving with him and Chris for about 7 years now, so I’m used to this. It doesn’t feel like an uphill battle to me. At the Zones this summer all three of us were within a couple of points of each other. It’s not going to be easy to beat either one of them, but I see the way for me to be within range of them.
“On our (respective) first 5 dives we all have big enough lists as far as degree of difficulty goes, and if I hit them all, I can win. I understand what I’m up against. I’m experienced enough by now. For sure, my DD is better this year, and I’m working on my board ride and trying to clean up some things in my voluntary dives. Right now that’s the difference between us, because they get 8s where I get 7s because right now they’re cleaner than I am.”
Nelson, a sophomore, doesn’t see himself in that elite class just yet.
“I always go into a meet trying to focus on doing my best,” he said. “I just want to be as good as they are by the time I’m a senior.
“I had a rough start today (after a two-week break from practice), but I hit my dives pretty solid in the middle round and I was happy with the last round. I’m used to diving about 2 hours every day, but I hadn’t touched the board for two weeks, so I think that had something to do with it. I have put in a few harder dives this year — including an inward 2 and one-half — and I’m working on adding more.”
“I think we were off our rhythm a little today,” added Melnick. “But Trevor didn’t get back until 4 o’clock yesterday, and considering he had no chance to practice, I thought he did really well. For both of them it’s just a matter now of getting back on the boards and getting some consistency. They’re both moving up in their levels of difficulty, but right now we don’t know where we’ll be at the end of the year.”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.