Evanston’s divers took down a pair of school records Saturday at the Glenbrook South Sectional meet.
Now, Harel Anolick and Turner Dobbs will get a chance to do it again next weekend at the Illinois High School Association state meet at New Trier High School.
Anolick, who might be the first ETHS freshman diver ever to reach the state finals, topped his own varsity record with an 11-dive point total of 534.00 while Dobbs, a sophomore, wiped out his own school sophomore mark at 441.60. Both standouts earned at-large berths for the state finals after placing 3rd and 6th, respectively, at the sectional qualifying meet.
Evanston’s legacy of top-flight divers began back in the 1930s, but IHSA records don’t list the year in school for medal winners at State. Two Wildkit stars from the 1950s era, Ted Snyder and Tim Walker, recorded top 6 state finishes three straight years.
Evanston diving coach Aaron Melnick knew Anolick was something special right from the first meet of the season, when he wiped out the old school diving dual meet record set by former state champion Tom Henry. Since then, Anolick has bettered the record 3 more times.
The freshman is the first diver in Melnick’s coaching tenure with extensive diving experience as a youngster before he ever reached high school. More typical in the ETHS program are divers like Dobbs, who was recruited for the sport after Melnick saw him compete in a gymnastics meet.
“You can say that Harel’s only a freshman, but he has years of experience behind him,” Melnick said. “Now that all of these clubs in the area are working with kids at a younger age, we really have a lot to look forward to.
“With Harel, it was just a matter of me learning about him and him learning about me. He’s really lot of fun to have around. We’ve never had someone come in with that kind of experience and he really is a great diver. They both went out strong today, and that’s all I can ask for.”
“I’ve always had qualifying for State on my mind, and I wanted to break 500 today, too. That was my goal,” said Anolick, whose previous best was 488 at the Central Suburban League freshman invitational. “Today I forced myself to focus more than I did last week. I just tried to come out and have fun. I’ve been diving for 7 and a half years now, so the pressure is something I’m used to. I think that gives me an edge, even against older divers.
“Training in high school is so much more different from club, where the training is a little more specific. In club I really just represented myself more, even though I was part of a team. But I enjoy being able to contribute (points) like this in high school and help them get off to a good start. It’s a good feeling, to feel like I’ve helped elevate the team a little.”
Anolick’s success has come despite the fact that he missed 6 weeks of training this summer after suffering a fractured leg working with his club team. He was coming off an 11th place finish at the spring Nationals.
Now he’s hoping to make an impact in his first trip to the state finals.
“I’m so excited, even though I know the judging will be harder there,” Anolick said. “The officials tend to be harder on divers they don’t know yet, but generally I’m optimistic about next weekend. If I mess up, I won’t be thrilled about it, but I’ll still have three more years. I’d be very, very happy just to make the top 12.”
“The question for us with Harel was, how do we make him better? And he has improved tremendously over the last 3 months,” Melnick said. “We had a conversation in the middle of the season where he wanted me to focus more on him (while requiring less actual teaching than some of the other ETHS hopefuls in the program). That was a little bit of a wakeup call for me as a coach, and he’s so willing to learn and to try to get better.
“We tried to work on some of the little things, like pointing your toes properly. Today he was really focused and my prediction is that he’ll do very well at the state meet, too.”
Dobbs, meanwhile, felt at home at the GBS pool because he competes for the Glenbrook Aquatics team in the off-season.
“This pool is a more friendly environment for me, I guess,” said the sophomore. “I’ve worked hard all season trying to do my best — and I think I did today.
“I hit my inward double today for the first time in a meet. Usually I don’t compete that well. Regardless of whether I make it to State or not, I think I dove the best I could today.”
“Turner has pushed himself all year long, and it’s his enthusiasm that got him to where he is today along with his talent,” Melnick praised. “The last diver I had with that kind of enthusiasm was (former state qualifier) Colin White, and right now Turner’s ahead of where Colin was as a sophomore.”
The ETHS duo were among the 7 qualifiers coming out of the GBS Sectional. South’s Aaron Ach turned in a record performance of his own, winning the competition with a school record score of 590.75 under the state’s new scoring standards.