Glencoe, Sports

Back and Better Than Ever: Kavanagh nabs state diving crown after two years away from high school competition

Greta Kavanagh was a new name at the IHSA diving championships, but her state title was a long time coming.

Kavanagh made a mark on the scene as a Loyola Academy freshman, placing fourth at the sectional in 2020, with because of the COVID-19 pandemic was a shortened season with no state finals.

The next two years, Kavanagh, a Lake Forest resident, focused on her skills, competing with a local club (Glenbrook Aquatics) instead of as a Rambler. But winning state never left her mind, something the state found out this season when Kavanagh returned to IHSA competition as a Loyola senior.

“I just wanted to show everyone my diving and what hasn’t been here for the past four years,” she said. “It was really nerve-racking.”

Greta Kavanagh with flowers and a first-place medal following the state diving competition.

And it wasn’t easy. Kavanagh’s 11-dive point total at the state championships held Friday-Saturday, Nov. 10-11, at FMC Natatorium in Westmont was 480.8, just ahead of runnerup Maggie Bendell, the reigning state champion out of Cary-Grove, and her 479 points.

Fremd’s Jacqueline Genet was third with 475.3, followed by Oswego East’s Katherine Malm (462.6) and Stevenson’s Lada Volkov (459.7).

Kavanagh was in second place after the opening rounds (5 dives) and first place after the semifinal round (3 dives) on Friday, Nov. 10, moving to the final day with less than a one-point advantage (356.05 to Bendell’s 355.7).

It wasn’t until the start of Saturday’s finals that Kavanagh created a cushion at the top, and she did it with her first dive: a reverse 1 1/2 somersault pike. The dive carried a 2.4-point difficulty score, tied for her highest on the weekend, and she nailed it, earning a score of 50.4, tops in the round and Kavanagh’s highest score of the weekend.

“Leading off the finals with a reverse is a gutsy move,” Loyola diving coach Tony D’Amico said. “It paid off.”

But it almost didn’t.

D’Amico said the Ramblers diver had “somewhat of a disastrous hurdle” — or approach — on the finals-opening dive but Kavanagh recovered and completed the pivotal dive.

To D’Amico, Kavanagh’s composure under pressure was key to her state championship performance and her 2023 season, during which she did not lose a meet.

“That’s really hard to do,” he said of adjusting on a hurdle. “She’s just a natural acrobat. … She’s great at not losing her focus. She doesn’t let highs and lows throw her off, which is hard in a meet like this that is hard and long.

“She’s a natural talent, natural acrobat and natural competitor and she doesn’t get rattled. Those are things that will make you great in this sport.”

Kavanagh will continue diving next year with the Badgers of the University of Wisconsin.

Kavanagh finished off her state-finals performance with dives scoring 39.1 and 38.25, respectively, to hold on to her lead and claim the state championship. She is Loyola Academy’s third diving state champion joining Lisi Rowland in 2007 and Elysse Rowland in 2005.

Kavanagh, who will dive for the University of Wisconsin at Madison next season, is the first diver to top 480 in the IHSA finals since 2015 (Sydney Dusei, Naperville Central).

“I wanted it for so long,” she said of a state championship. “It feels really good to finally get here and be here and win.

“It’s crazy. It doesn’t feel real yet. I didn’t think it would happen.”

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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