The rest of the diving community in the state of Illinois found out just how good Trevor Nelson can be Saturday.
Nelson found out, too.
The Evanston junior turned in a breakout performance at the New Trier Winter Diving Classic against a field of 35 competitors who will also be on the scene next month at the Illinois High School Association state finals. Nelson put together a career-best total of 523.60 points for 11 dives, 16 points better than runnerup Eric Correa of Mount Carmel.
He even beat ETHS teammate Harel Anolick — third at 502.75 — for the first time in an 11-dive setting.
“This was a test for me, because it was the first time going up against guys I’ll see at State,” said Nelson, who placed 9th at the IHSA finals as a sophomore. “I just wanted a chance to size up the competition, and what I saw today is very reassuring for me.
“Harel and I have been right on each other’s necks all season even though this is the first time I’ve beaten him in an 11-dive meet. For me, winning this meet was more important than beating him. This is a huge step for me, to know now that I stack up so well against the others in the State. I definitely think that now I‘m coming into my own. It’s a real confidence boost for me and it helps me recognize that I really am one of the top divers in the State.
“My goal before the season was to be in the top 5 at State. Now — I think I can do better.”
“That was a great performance by Trevor today, and a very good one for Harel,” said ETHS diving coach Aaron Melnick. “Trevor showed that he has closed the gap on Harel (from last year, when Anolick took 5th at State). They’re so strong working together like they do. They’re very close friends and they help each other out by pushing each other to be successful.
“Sometimes Trevor questions how good he really is. But he sees it when he dives well, and he saw it today. He doesn’t know just how good he can be. He’s starting to get more comfortable with more of his dives and I think this win will get him on a roll now. He knows that he stepped up, that he can do it against good competition.”
The two Evanston divers traded the lead for most of the meet until Anolick misfired on 8th dive of the day, a reverse dive pike. He only scored 18 points on a dive that usually produces a score in the 40s, and both Nelson and Correa took advantage of that lapse to pull ahead of him on the last 3 dives.
“Harel made one mistake and that’s what cost him first place,” added Melnick. “I’m really proud of how he tried to fight back after he got 25 points down and got back to within 5 points at the end. I really liked how relaxed both of our guys were today. They weren’t nervous at all, and if they keep that relaxed mindset, we’ll be good at the end of the year.”
Nelson’s surprising top 10 finish a year ago at State was just the beginning of his motivation to join the state’s elite. He fell short of advancing to the Junior Nationals this summer and redoubled his efforts to get to the next level alongside teammate Anolick.
“I’m getting more comfortable with my hurdle and I’m using my strength more to my advantage,” he said. “I worked really hard at the end of the summer because I knew I had to step up if I wanted to make it to Junior Nationals. My last dive today was an inward two and a half, and that’s a dive that wasn’t too good for me last year. I got 5s and 6s today because I jumped and spun a lot better than I usually do.”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.