Back to back

Joe Sullivan, Sports Writer

On Feb. 29, senior Jack Williams won his second IHSA state diving championship with a score of 544.20 points, an Evanston pool record. The University of Pennsylvania commit won the contest in style, hitting the jackpot with a full twisting 2½ as his final dive, beating the second place finisher by almost 20 points.

After placing 11th as a sophomore, Williams was determined to compete for the top spot on the podium as a junior. He did just that, beating Downer Grove North’s Kevin Sullivan on the last dive to secure the win with a score of 531.20. 

“Going into state this year was so much different than last year. Everyone’s expectation instantly raised to me being the state champ again, but I knew it wasn’t just going to be a walk in the park,” Williams said.

Williams went on to have an undefeated senior season and became the first back to back state champ in H-F school history. 

Head coach Rick Carlson, has coached diving for over 50 years for both Thornwood and H-F. Carlson has produced tons of talent with numerous collegiate divers, and has 41 state medals along with 9 state championships under his belt. But compared to Carlson’s past divers, Jack was something unique.

“Of all the divers I have coached, Jack has the most kinesthetic sense,” Carlson said. “He is almost like a cat in his ability to know where he is in the air.”

Jack wasn’t always set on diving. Throughout his childhood, he did diving and swimming at the Flossmoor Country Club just for fun.

Carlson had the pleasure to be around Jack at a young age.

“My late wife and I played a good deal of golf with and knew Jack’s Grandparents well, so I have watched Jack’s dad growing up and have known and worked with him since he was about nine,” said Carlson. “I have watched him grow around the pool, at church, in school, and through his interactions with other kids and adults, and it has been a real joy watching him grow and mature.”

He also played a lot of baseball up until his freshman year where he had to make a decision on what he wanted to participate in at H-F. Williams chose diving and it worked out in his favor. 

“Making the decision to walk away from baseball forever was a tough decision, but one that I made with a lot of caution,” Williams said. “I knew that diving may be the sport that I really thrive in since not too many people do it and I really enjoyed the thrill of being so high up and being able to make so little splash.”

Jack isn’t the only diver on the team. Junior Dominic Cutrara is a childhood friend of Williams and has been looking up to him since the beginning of his freshman year.

“He’s taught me so much about diving and about succeeding because he is the definition of success and no one deserves as much as the kid,” Cutrara said. “Working with him has made me a better diver because he has given me a level that I strive to get at every day.”

Throughout his high school career, Williams has participated in many extra curricular activities such as being a staffer at Flossmoor Community Church and a member of Mu Alpha Theta. 

“I really like being a part of these clubs because it helps me give back to the community that has given me so much over these past 18 years,” Williams said. “Whether it be going to church on Sunday or staying after school for an hour to tutor kids, it’s all very humbling for me to see what a great community I had the chance to grow up and thrive in.”

Last August, Jack announced his commitment to the prestigious University of Pennsylvania on a diving scholarship where he plans to major in electrical engineering or computer science.

“The final decision on Penn was one that was very hard, but was made easy as soon as I stepped on campus. The other schools I was looking at couldn’t offer that unrivaled experience that Penn offers and I can’t wait to experience it for myself in the fall,” Williams said.

Not many athletes get the label “state champ”. Especially not twice. For Williams, it was the perfect ending to his historic career at H-F. 

“That feeling of having your name called as state champ never gets old. I mean it’s always a special feeling and I’ll cherish it forever,” Williams said. “Just having a crowd that is full of people who care about me and who watched me dive is truly something special.”

Jack is leaving a legacy behind as one of the best and most accomplished athletes to walk the halls of H-F, and looks to continue that success in the future.

“I’d say that one of my biggest goals right now is to graduate in four years and have a job once I leave,” Williams said. “But I know people ask this all the time and ask about the Olympics and maybe, just maybe I will go for the Olympic trials in 2024, but after that I’m officially calling it quits and moving on to living life to the fullest.”