O’Donnell taking cautious approach to invite

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The way Ryan O’Donnell looks at it, if he were to miss part of the season due to an illness, better now than later.

Hinsdale Central’s top diver, who signed with Michigan in November, contracted mononucleosis last month. He planned to return for his first full week of practice Monday.

He missed nearly the entire month of December and returned to competition Jan. 4 in a dual meet against Oak Park-River Forest. He scored 205.30 points over six dives to beat teammates Sam Pielet (175.05) and Elliott Arnold (159.20) for first. OPRF’s senior duo of Asher Einhorn (147.00) and Mick Wilson (144.60) finished 4-5.

The next day, O’Donnell missed the 11-dive Hinsdale South College Events meet while Arnold (318.30) placed fourth and Pielet (318.25) took fifth. Hinsdale South’s Vinnie Kochanski and Brad Nelson were 17th and 19th, respectively.

All the top divers from Hinsdale Central, OPRF and Hinsdale South will compete in the biggest diving meet of the season at 1 p.m. Saturday at Hinsdale Central. But there is a chance O’Donnell may not compete if he is not fully recovered from his illness.

His biggest priority is to get healthy for the Lyons Sectional Feb. 16.

If O’Donnell competes at Hinsdale, he will just be happy with a top-12 finish while trying to regain the strength and form he has lost in the last few weeks.

“Last year I missed it as a junior,” O’Donnell said. “I was out with a stress fracture injury to my (right) leg. It has been a while since I was in a major meet.”

O’Donnell, a Clarendon Hills resident, has yet to appear in an 11-dive meet this season. Pielet of Willow Springs placed ninth at the Neuqua Valley Invitational Dec. 15.

The Hinsdale Central Invite, which features nearly 55 divers from across the state, might be a tough assignment for a state finalist looking to make a breakthrough after a month-long illness. The three-hour-plus meet will feature four of the top 12 finishers from last year’s state meet, including O’Donnell (11th).

The meet favorites include Stevenson’s James Lichtenstein (third at state), Downers Grove South’s Ryan Kujawa (fourth) and Lake Forest’s Andrew Walsh (ninth).

The 36-team meet cuts to the top 16 after five dives and then to the top 12 after eight dives.

“If I’m in it, I just want to have a positive showing,” O’Donnell said. “That’s my only main goal.”

Pielet, a junior from the boys gymnastics team, has developed a nice rivalry and tight friendship with Arnold, a sophomore. Pielet is fully recovered from an injured ear drum that cut short his season a year ago.

“I’m looking forward (to the invite) and how much fun it is going to be,” Pielet said. “Elliott and I are good buds.”

Fenwick sophomore Max Showalter, who placed 40th at state, will compete at Hinsdale Central after winning the Marquette Invitational Jan. 5 in Brown Deer, Wis. Showalter scored 424.40 points to lead Fenwick to third place. He roared past Chris Miszewski of Waukesha West, Wis. (353.80), while Fenwick’s David Durkin (329.25) placed third.

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