Senior diver Alex O’Toole competes in the final dual meet of his prep career Friday at Fenwick.
His goal is simple.
“I’m going to relax and have fun,” he said. “I don’t want to think too much about what I’m doing.”
O’Toole said he plans to employ the same strategy at the MCAC diving meet Feb. 2 at Fenwick and the Niles North Sectional on Feb. 17. A three-year varsity diver, he’s looking to earn his third trip to the state meet, which is Feb. 23-24 at Evanston.
“I really want to have fun with the rest of the season,” he said. “Getting to the state meet and placing well would be great, but I think having fun is most important. If I do that, I believe I can do well.”
At Hinsdale Central’s invitational Saturday, O’Toole competed against some of the best divers in the state. His 452.45 point total was good for fifth in the 51-diver field. The divers who made up the top three all placed at the state meet last season, including Mount Carmel senior Eric Correa. He was second at Hinsdale Central and second at last year’s state meet.
The highlight was O’Toole hitting a reverse 1 1/2 pike, which he called “one of the best dives I’ve ever done.”
“That was a great meet,” O’Toole said. “Even the dives I didn’t hit, I know what I did wrong and how to fix them.”
A gymnast growing up, O’Toole — a graduate of Immaculate Conception in Norwood Park and resident of Chicago’s Edgebrook neighborhood — started diving when he was 11 years old. He said the gymnastics background was useful.
According to Loyola diving coach Tony D’Amico, O’Toole’s strength is his athleticism.
“He can jump, he’s strong and has tremendous body awareness,” D’Amico said. “He’s graceful and powerful, which is a unique combination. He dives with a lot of style and is able to perform in a way that looks effortless.”
D’Amico said a big part of diving is mental, and O’Toole admitted one of his obstacles is between the ears. But he said his showing Saturday at Hinsdale Central went a long way toward preparing him for the rest of the season.
“I can do all the dives in practice, but I tend to get nervous in competition and miss them,” he said. “That’s why hitting that reverse 1 1/2 pike was big for me.”
Added D’Amico: “Diving is a sport about getting control of your own mind. The idea is to get the thoughts out of your head and go up there with an empty mind.”
As a junior, O’Toole missed making the semifinals at the state meet by one spot, finishing 17th. He placed 21st as a sophomore. The top 12 qualify for the finals and earn state medals. Six Loyola divers have won medals, the most recent being 2017 graduate Christopher Canning, who tallied one second, two thirds and one fourth.
“It’s been a really great season so far,” said O’Toole, who is undecided on his diving future after high school. “It’s still a work in progress, but I’m becoming more confident in what I’m doing.”