Fenwick diver loves to put on a show
Fenwick's Max Showalter finished fifth in the diving competition during Saturday's IHSA State Championship hosted by New Trier High School. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
At Class 3A Nazareth Sectional, 7:30 p.m.
At Hoffman Estates Super-Sectional, 7:30 p.m.
BOYS ICE HOCKEY
At The Edge Ice Arena (West) vs. Naperville North, 6:30 p.m.
At The Edge Ice Arena (West) if needed, 8:35 p.m.
At OPRF, 5:30 p.m.
At Morton West Invite w/Shepard, Addison Trail, Ridgewood, 4:30 p.m.
BOYS WATER POLO
Hosts Stevenson, TBA
GIRLS WATER POLO
Hosts Loyola, 6:30 p.m.
Hosts Invite, 4 p.m.
Updated: April 8, 2013 6:36AM
If Fenwick sophomore diver Max Showalter’s Olympic dreams don’t pan out, he has other talents he may pursue down the road.
“I love to sing,” Showalter said. “Me and a friend are going to try out for ‘American Idol’ next time they’re in town.”
Singing may be a passion, but Showalter’s true talent these days is diving — a sport he picked up less than three years ago.
After placing 40th at state last year as a freshman, Showalter flew all the way to fifth Feb. 22-23 at New Trier.
“I was really happy,” Showalter said. “Last year’s competition was a good gauge for this year. I let my nerves get to me more last year. This year, it was more about having fun and just diving the best that I could and not trying to be perfect. I trained a lot more. My expectations were to finish in the top 10, but the goal I set for the season was really top five, so it was exciting.”
Like many divers, Showalter grew up performing gymnastics, but after about seven years in the sport, he was burnt out by the time he needed to make a commitment. He had taken off about a year from sports when his parents pointed him to diving.
“Like most kids his age, when your parents make a suggestion, they don’t want to do it,” Showalter’s mother Jill said. “One day we saw him checking out diving videos and he thought it was cool.”
Showalter signed up for a six-week summer diving program at Fenwick before his freshman year and fell in love with the sport. He then joined the Oakton Diving Club out of Northeastern University before switching to his current club, Windy City diving. He also takes private lessons.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Jill Showalter said. “He’s diving against kids that have dove for eight, nine and 10 years. He had to make up some ground, but he has progressed quickly. He works hard at it.”
Switching sports was a natural transition for Showalter, who hopes to compete in the U.S. Olympic Trials for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“Even when I was little, I loved doing handstands and the acrobatic aspects of gymnastics,” Showalter said. “When I was done with gymnastics, I still wanted to flip around.”
Showalter is already within striking distance of the school’s diving record of 520, set by 1974 Fenwick graduate Larry Wert. Wert, the former president and general manager of WMAQ-TV and current president of local broadcasting for Tribune Co., attended Fenwick’s sectional to watch and meet Showalter, whose best score is 481.
While it’s common for gymnasts to switch to diving, Fenwick diving coach Peter Lamkin is quick to point out that they are two completely different sports.
“The rotations and somersaults are the same, but one thing that quality divers need is finesse,” Lamkin said. “Max definitely has that. A lot of divers can do the mechanics and rotations, but what makes a good diver great is that extra little bit of finesse. His maturity level is also unbelievable. He’s like a senior diver.
“He had a big growth spurt over the summer, which translates to more height on the boards. Hopefully, he has even more growth spurts. He’ll be battling for the championship next year.”
Three of this year’s top five finishers at state were sophomores. In addition to Showalter (404.30 points), Marian Catholic’s Joey Cifelli placed second (443.60) and Deerfield’s Sean Scarry was fourth (411.25). All are Windy City club members.
Showalter competed with Cifelli to place 13th at age-group nationals in synchronized diving in Greensboro, N.C.
Showalter, who practices five hours a day, considers the front two-and-a-half pike or double twist one-and-a-half as his best dives. He plans to move up the state standings as a junior.
“My goal is to win, but I know there is good competition,” Showalter said. “I’m determined to achieve my goals.”
That goes for diving, as well as singing.