Celebrating a summer of books

Homewood-Flossmoor High School varsity diving head coach Rick Carlson has coached for over 53 years: 31 years for H-F and 22 years for Thornwood High. 

Varsity diving head coach Rick Carlson next to junior Jack Williams after he took home the state title on Feb. 23, 2019. (Provided photo)
  Varsity diving head coach
  Rick Carlson next to junior
  Jack Williams after he took
  home the state title on Feb. 23,
(Provided photo)

He also was a diver in high school and college. 

Carlson believes H-F junior Jack Williams is one of the best divers he has coached. It showed when Williams won the IHSA state diving championship in February.

“I’ve coached 40 kids who have won medals at the state meet and eight state champions. Jack is probably the most talented of all the kids I’ve coached all those years,” Carlson said. 

In 2018, Williams came in 11th as a sophomore at the state competition losing to Downers Grove North’s Kevin Sullivan, a Penn State recruit. In the off season, Williams and Sullivan dive with the Windy City Diving Club.

Coming into the state meet this season, the outgoing Sullivan, a senior, was heavily favored over his challengers, but Williams gave him a run for his money.

“Usually at state, one diver is head and shoulders above everybody else, but this year there were two divers,” Carlson said. “It was a great contest to watch.”

On Feb. 23, Williams won the state diving title with a score of 531.20, beating Sullivan by 6.45 points. 

“When it happened, I was pretty surprised because I didn’t know yet whether or not I had won. But, I knew it was a pretty close competition,” Williams said. 

“I felt more confident in myself and what I can do as a competitor. I wasn’t really worried about who I was competing against. It was just about how well I could do dives by myself.”

Williams had a late start to diving compared to his opponents. During his childhood, Williams played baseball and participated in diving for fun.

He didn’t start taking diving seriously until his freshman year at H-F, when he began to dive with childhood friend sophomore Dominic Cutrara.

The main reason Williams made the full transition to diving from baseball was because he wanted to focus on his future. 

“I realized that I wasn’t too good in baseball and I probably couldn’t get paid to go to college to do that. So, I was already pretty decent at diving and so I just gave it a shot. Really it was all about going to college,” Williams said.  

Cutrara and WIlliams are the only two members on the boys diving team, which is rare for a sport at H-F.

“It gives you more reps (repetitions) and it lets you get to know your coach better and what he expects of you,” Cutrara said. 

Along with his parents, Pete and Shannon Williams, Cutrara was at the state meet at New Trier High to support Williams. 

“I think I was more nervous than he was. He showed out his best performance I’ve ever seen him do,” Cutrara said. “His final two dives: the reverse two-and-a-half and the reverse two-and-a-half twister, they were some of the best dives he’s ever done.”

When he’s not diving for H-F, Williams keeps a packed schedule. 

Monday through Thursday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., you’ll find Williams at the University of Illinois-Chicago practicing diving. He is involved in Mu Alpha Theta, National Honor Society, participates in PADS and is a youth leader at his church.  

In sports, diving is extremely different when compared to team sports such as football or basketball. Williams said diving is more about being “mentally focused” rather than being in physical shape. 

“In diving, as long as you’re flexible and got a little bit of leg strength, you can be really good. Being an athlete in diving, you really have to be mentally tough and you can’t get down on yourself,” Williams said.


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