Some sports — like track and cross country or swimming and water polo — contain obvious companion qualities.
But diving and trampoline? That relationship is a bit more obtuse. And Stevenson’s James Lichtenstein might be one of the few athletes in the state with expertise in both.
“You land on your head in diving,” Lichtenstein said. “In trampoline, you can jump as many times as you want. In diving, you get one bounce.”
The Patriot senior’s last bounce at the state diving competition Saturday was good enough to secure a third-place finish (412.75 points). It capped a diving career that started when Lichtenstein was only a sophomore.
But well before he began diving, Lichtenstein was bouncing on a trampoline. That started when he was 11 years old, and the sport has taken Lichtenstein to Russia, Canada, and Portugal for international competitions. Now a member of the USA Trampoline Senior National Team, Lichtenstein hopes to compete this summer in the World Games in Columbia, South America before he heads off to Notre Dame in the fall.
He said the sport of competitive trampoline is very popular overseas, with crowds at events reaching well over a thousand. As Lichtenstein prepared for his most challenging dive in Friday’s preliminary round — the reverse two-and-a-half — he channeled the nervous energy he has grown accustomed to on the trampoline circuit.
“Everyone is on the deck and you know for sure they are watching you,” Lichtenstein said of the crowd inside New Trier’s Natatorium. “I didn’t let it get to me. I nailed it.”
His score of 57 was the catalyst that propelled him into fourth place after Friday. Lichtenstein jumped one spot after Saturday’s competition to earn the third-place medal.
It was the highest finish of any individual Patriot over the two-day state meet. After a runner-up showing at the Barrington Sectional, Stevenson had qualifiers in three individual events (the 100- and 500-yard freestyles and 100 backstroke). No one made it to Saturday’s championship finals. Sophomore Allen Feng ended up 10th in the 100 back (51.50 seconds) while sophomore Nick Koto was 11th in the 500 free (4:39.85).
“That was my main goal after sectionals, to get to Saturday. It felt good,” Koto said. “Overall, we did OK. We came out as the underdog.”
Sophomore Blake Ripes earned 10th place in the diving competition. A year after finishing in a tie for 10th place in the team standings with a senior-dominated team, the Patriots placed 22nd overall.