Somehow, Downers Grove North junior diver Kevin Sullivan makes his impressive, twisting dives look easy, while in fact nothing is further from the truth.
Plenty of training, travel and hard work are what make Sullivan so special and, given the fact that he missed his sophomore campaign following surgery for a torn labrum in his hip, his accomplishments this season are all the more special.
At Saturday's sectional meet at the Trojans' home pool, Sullivan was spectacular, scoring a whopping 595.80 points that was more than 124 points better than the runner-up, Riverside-Brookfield's Ja'Moni Wise.
"From my perspective, and I don't know much about diving, he makes it look easy," Downers Grove North swimming coach Adam Bruesch said. "The way he rides the board and how high he gets off it. Ever since he was little (he excelled), but he works awfully hard in the off-season. He's a year-round diver and he travels all over to get to competitions."
Sullivan broke the school's diving record of 511 in the first meet this season, then blew past that with a 552 score two weeks ago on the road. Saturday's sectional title saw him break the long-standing pool mark of 539.40 at Downers North.
"I'm pretty excited. I've been waiting to break this (pool) record all year," said Sullivan, whose top two dives are the front one-and-half with two twists, and the reverse two-and-half. "It took a lot of training and a lot of hard work, but my main goal in this sport is just to have a lot of fun."
The judging at next week's state meet might differ a tad from Saturday's, but if Sullivan comes anywhere close to reaching his latest score, he'll not only improve on the seventh-place showing he got as a freshman, he may also end up in state-record territory.
"It was good," said the laid-back Trojan, who is looking forward to facing his close friend and club teammate Eric Correa, a Mt. Carmel senior who placed second in the state last year. "It will be fun to see how we go at it."
Lake Park sophomore Benjamin Kimmel is headed back to state in the 100 back and the 100 butterfly, looking to improve on his 11th-place showing at state in the 100 back.
"It was fine," he said of his sectional effort. "The 100 fly, I felt pretty good, but I felt like I could have done better, and in the 100 back I probably could have come back faster in the second 50. But I'm excited for state. I'd like to place in the top six (in the 100 back)."
State contenders Hinsdale Central and Lyons Township battled to the wire for the team title and each will send a large contingent of qualifiers to state. The Red Devils claimed the final event of the meet as Brandon Glowniak, Thomas Willemse, Cole Grosshans and Donavan Lahmann edged the Lions in the 400-yard free relay. Even so, Lyons won the meet with 290 points compared to 286 for Hinsdale Central. York was third overall and Lake Park fifth.
Lahmann, who was a little under the weather, also earned return trips to state in the 100 and 200 free open races -- taking first in the 100 and placing second to defending state champion Henry Claesson of Lyons in the 200 -- as well as the 200 free relay, an event in which the Red Devils claimed a state title in last year.
"I actually felt kind of sick coming into the day. I didn't want to say anything to the team," said Lahmann, who was without coach Bob Barber due to illness.
The Red Devils junior is expecting another big showing at state. Last year he was a surprising fourth in the 200, added a seventh in the 100 and almost helped record a state record time while winning the 200 free relay.
"It's always fun to win. But people think our rivalry with (the Lions) is some huge deal but we're always friends with each other and it's nice to see your friends win even if you don't," he said of battling it out with Lyons Township, which claimed the conference crown last week and also won state last year when the Red Devils were second. "We've got a lot to look forward to. We've got a lot of people to shave down yet. Not a lot of people ended up shaving for this meet."
Downers North's Ben Ellstrom won the 200 IM and runner-up Cullen Cochlan of Hinsdale Central came in under the state qualifying cut in that event as well as in the 100 butterfly. Red Devil sprinter Grosshans won the 50 free in 21.04. York's Branko Kosanovich moves on to state in the 100 butterfly and the 100 backstroke. In all, six swimmers qualified in the 100 back, including Kimmel, Ellstrom and Willemse.