One glance at the competition during the warmups for the diving competition at the Illinois High School Association state finals at New Trier High School Saturday morning told Trevor Nelson all he needed to know.
The Evanston senior saw that rivals Jack Williams of Homewood-Flossmoor and defending state champion Kevin Sullivan of Downers Grove North were about to bring their “A” game to the last 3 dives of the season.
So Nelson adjusted his goals and climbed to a final 3rd place State finish, capping a brilliant career and becoming the first ETHS diver to ever surpass the 500 point-plateau at State.
Classmate Henry Goodman added an 11th place finish after wiping out on his final attempt, accounting for all 14 of the points Evanston scored in the team standings. The Wildkits placed 22nd overall.
Standing in 5th place after Friday’s preliminary and semifinal competition, Nelson rose as close to the top as he could. Williams captured the individual crown with a point total of 531.20, followed by Sullivan (524.75) and Nelson (501.10).
Goodman was credited with a final total of 410.70 points after his final dive resulted in no points as he landed flat on his back attempting a reverse 2 and a half somersault tuck dive.
Nelson, who joined former teammate Harel Anolick as the only 4-time state qualifiers in Evanston’s storied diving history, is also one of only 3 Wildkits to ever earn 3 State medals after placing 4th as a junior and 9th as a sophomore. Ted Snyder finished 6th, 1st and 1st again from 1954 to 1957, while 1958 grad Tim Walker placed 4th, 4th and 2nd in his trips to State.
Nelson’s resume also features back-to-back sectional championships and he owns the school record for 11 dives as well. He’ll leave behind quite a legacy when he continues his career at the University of Pennsylvania next year.
The Evanston standout’s dreams of a state title came to a premature halt when he was underscored by the meet judges during Friday’s competition, limiting just how high he could rise with only 3 dives remaining on Saturday. He knew it would be tough to close the gap.
“I felt like I should have been seeded third coming out of Friday,” Nelson said. “So after that, I just wanted to hit my dives and move up --- and I did that. When I saw Kevin and Jack warming up today, they both looked strong and confident. So I readjusted my own goals. Third place was really the highest attainable goal left for me.
“I wanted to hit my last 2 dives (3.0 and 3.1 degrees of difficulty) and I felt like I did as good as I possibly could. I’m not disappointed at all. I wanted to finish strong, and I think I did.”
So did ETHS diving coach Aaron Melnick.
“He should have been third after yesterday, and he should have been closer to the leaders,” Melnick noted. “The judges obviously didn’t like something about his diving. Maybe they forgot that he won every meet this year and that there was a reason for that. But I’m not angry. I’m happy with the way Trevor dove. I think his name will be on that All-American list at the end of the year.
“Those three top 10 finishes (at State) tell you he’s a great diver. He’s also one of the most well-rounded kids I’ve ever coached. He’s just a nice person to be around. He’s mature, he’s respectful and he cares.
“He has a low-key manner about him and I think that’s helped him adjust to the state meet level. You have to be poised, composed and keep it together to succeed at State. And I think the biggest difference for Trevor this year was his confidence. That came from winning last year’s sectional (where he set the school record), and that was probably the best meet of his career.”
Nelson’s final high school dive was an inward 2 and a half somersault tuck that pushed him over the 500 mark, a dive that produced 55 points.
“That’s a dive that’s really been inconsistent for me, and I worked a lot on finishing it this week in practice,” he said. “I felt like I got a good top on that dive, and I did get a good, strong comeout, too. The kick there has always given me trouble, because I’m not super confident in it, but it worked today. I’ve been doing it since my sophomore year and it’s just slowly gotten stronger and stronger.”
Goodman’s final attempt was at the other extreme. Landing flat on your back isn’t exactly the way he wanted to end his career, but the easy-going senior was able to laugh at himself and had no regrets about his experience at ETHS as a diver, and varsity letterman in both golf and water polo.
Goodman decided at the beginning of his high school career to branch out into other sports after a diving career he began at age 9. He still managed to score a State trip for the first time in diving, even though it wasn’t his only focus as a Wildkit athlete.
“If our team was in it (team standings race), and my points really mattered, it would’ve been a bigger disappointment,” said Goodman about his failed attempt. “It might not have gone the way I planned it, but I do this for fun. And that last dive is something I’ll remember --- for sure.
“I didn’t practice that dive all week because I don’t like it. I was just hoping I’d have some good luck with it and my adrenaline would get me through it. I only learned it because (former ETHS assistant coach Jim Blickenstaff) Coach Blick bribed me with pizza to do it. I did get 7s on it a couple of times this year, but I also fell off the board when I tried it on Senior Night.
“I knew it was a hit-or-miss dive for me. Now I’ll never have to try it again.”
“Henry had a really good meet, except for that last dive,” added Melnick. “He would have been around 455 points without that failed dive and he could have been an All-American, too. I thought he had 10 good dives between yesterday and today. His back twister yesterday was phenomenal. His reverse dive was really good, and so was his inward double.”