Nelson, Goodman advance to state diving finals

The public address announcer at the New Trier High School pool offered the standard disclaimer before the preliminary and semifinal rounds of diving competition at the Illinois High School Association state meet Friday.

You know, the announcement that says the results projected on the screen aren’t official until meet referees put the final totals together.

A computer program that decided to average out the diving scores --- instead of tossing out the high and low scores per individual competitor and then adding up the totals --- produced bizarre numbers on the scoreboard and left the competitors uncertain about just where they stood after the first 5 preliminary dives Friday morning.

Evanston senior Henry Goodman, making his first trip to the competition, experienced more than a few nervous moments before both he and teammate Trevor Nelson punched a ticket to Saturday’s finals.

Goodman and ETHS diving coach Aaron Melnick both thought he’d be left on the outside looking in with what appeared to be the 17th or 18th best score of the prelims. Only 16 divers make the cut to the semifinal round.

But the numbers --- after a 30-minute wait --- eventually added up to a No. 15 slot for Goodman, who then jumped 8 places in the standings after 3 more semifinal dives. Both he and Nelson, who posted the 5th best score in the field, are honing in on top 10 finishes on Saturday.

Evanston’s swimmers fell short in their qualifying bids, so Nelson and Goodman will be the only ETHS representatives on deck for the finals.

“I wasn’t really nervous until after my last (5th) dive this morning, when I started trying to add it up in my head,” Goodman said. “There were persons I’d never heard of with scores ahead of me and my own coach had me on the outside of making it. My goal this week was just to make it to Saturday so I thought, wow, that’s not good!

“I was a little frustrated by all of it. It would have been nice not to have to sweat and worry about it like that. I definitely cut it close.”

Nelson, who is aiming to become the first Evanston male diver to claim the IHSA state championship since Tom Henry back in 1987,  battled through low scores on 2 of his back dives in the semifinal round but is still within striking distance of the title with an 8-dive total of 347.05 points. He trails the leader, defending state champion Kevin Sullivan of Downers Grove North, by approximately 30 points.

The Evanston senior, who placed 4th last year, believes he can make up that deficit on his last 3 dives that have a degree of difficulty of 2.2, 3.0 and 3.1.

“Right now I’m really close to the third and fourth guys, and I like the position I’m in,” Nelson said. “I think I dove consistently today, but state judging is always a coin toss on whether they like you or not. I felt pretty good about the way I dove today. And if I hit my tough dives in that last round tomorrow, I’m in a good spot to move up.”

Goodman shrugged off that early uncertainty with 3 solid dives in the semis. He was especially proud of his inward 2-somersault tuck and back 1 and a half somersault, 1 and a half twist performances that produced a whopping 100 points between them.

“I knew that once I made it to the semis, I had two of my bigger dives coming up,” Goodman said. “I put down that inward dive and I also hit that back twister. That inward dive was a real confidence booster for me, and the back twister was as good a dive as I’ve done all year.”

While close counted for Goodman, it didn’t for the 200-yard freestyle relay foursome of Rafael de Gouvea, Santiago Torrescano-Ramos, John Martin and Charlie Duffy. Despite the fact that they turned in their best clocking of the season --- 1 minute, 26.58 seconds --- they missed out on a chance to advance by .23. Their time was the 14th fastest and only 12 teams advanced to Saturday’s championship and consolation finals.

All four swimmers turned in their best splits of the year, led by No. 2 swimmer Torrescano-Ramos’ effort of 21.36. The same foursome was timed in 1:26.67 at the Niles North Sectional meet.

Evanston’s other qualifiers --- de Gouvea in the 100 butterfly (52.70), Duffy in the 50 freestyle (22.08) and the 400 freestyle relay team of Duffy, Charlie Herrick, Aaron Martin and de Gouvea (3:15.78) all posted slower times in the prelims than they did at the sectional qualifying meet.

“We knew coming in that beating the times we had last week was going to be difficult,” admitted Evanston head coach Kevin Auger. “That 400 group was really inspired last week (cutting a staggering 8 seconds off their previous best time) and they still had their second best time of the season today. And that 200 time was our best time --- period. It’s disappointing that they didn’t get in, because we felt we had a chance there, but we just missed by a couple of 10ths.

“I’m a little sad for (seniors) Rafi and Santi, but it was good for our younger kids to get an opportunity to see what this is like. You have to do it once (compete at State) before you can come here and really do well. I don’t care who you are, this is like no other environment.

“That 200 relay left it all out there and did their best, or it would have left a sour taste for us. We just fell a little bit short, and it’s still a tremendous accomplishment for them.”     

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