For Vernon Hills senior Brad Rogers, the most dramatic moment of the season did not occur while he was on a diving board.
Instead, it took place Feb. 22 in the hours following the Lake Forest Sectional. To qualify for diving in the state meet, you must win one of the 16 sectionals or finish with one of the 32 best at-large scores. Rogers’ score of 363.10 put him squarely on the bubble.
So following the sectional, Rogers frantically hit the refresh buttons on his phone and computer to make sure he would know the second the IHSA posted the results. After the first 13 sectional results were posted, he had the final spot, but there were still three sets of results to sweat out.
“The three sectionals that were left are not known for having many great divers, but anything could happen,” Rogers said. “It was very nerve-wracking.”
Added Vernon Hills diving coach Toni Pastorino: “The wait was the worst. We counted [scores] over and over.”
Finally, late that afternoon, the final scores were posted and Rogers learned he was state-bound.
“I called my coach and was just yelling into the phone I was so excited,” Rogers said.
At the state meet, Rogers finished in 42nd place (140.20). He was Vernon Hills’ lone participant at the state meet.
“His ultimate goal was to qualify for state and we knew for him to do that he had to increase his degree of difficulty,” Pastorino said. “He worked all season on harder dives and that proved to be the difference.”
Rogers was a swimmer for most of middle school before his dad suggested he giving diving a try.
“I had always loved to jump around on the trampoline and do flips,” he said. “I was getting bored of swimming and there are so many different things you can do with diving. I ended up loving it.”
A major catalyst for Rogers in his senior season was his decision to dedicate himself to diving on a full-time basis. He did not let any rust develop because he participated in club diving in the spring, summer and fall.
“When the high school season started, I didn’t have to get back in the diving mode and focus [only] on the fundamentals,” he said. “I was able to start right back up.”
Rogers said that for his first three years as a diver for the Cougars, he learned a great deal from Alex Zuniga, a 2013 Vernon Hills graduate and multi-time state qualifier.
“Being able to see how he practiced every day showed me how I needed to practice,” Rogers said. “He had a lot of experience and it was really helped to see how he performed under pressure.”
Zuniga was thrilled to learn that his former teammate had qualified for the state meet.
“Brad is very athletic and can do his dives without getting physically tired,” Zuniga said. “He was very entertaining and always had something to say to lighten the mood in high-pressure situations.”