GREENFIELD — Ben Rader wasn’t consciously trying to smash Greenfield-Central’s diving record when he stepped onto the board at Pendleton Heights on Dec. 7. It just suddenly happened.
Rader took down the 31-year-old record previously set by John Farrell in 1986, said Greenfield-Central head diving coach Duane Knecht. Rader’s cumulative six-dive score for the meet was 288, soaring past Farrell’s 274.
Rader took down the oldest record in the school’s book that day, Knecht said. Yet, Rader’s senior-year success not surprising. He’s one of the team’s most talented and hardworking athletes, Knecht said.
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Last year at the sectional, Rader claimed the school’s 11-dive record with 473.65 points. Since this season started, the whole team has been rooting for the superstar senior to meet his latest goal, said Cougars teammate Maci Montgomery.
Montgomery has been on the team with Rader for three years. He has always striven to beat his personal scores, but this year he was especially focused on getting his name on the wall for a second time, she said.
“All season it was all he talked about: ‘I’m gonna get that record. I’m gonna get that record,’” Montgomery said.
But when the moment actually arrived, Rader wasn’t prepared for his success. In fact, he thought he’d been diving poorly that meet, he said. In Rader’s head, he’d been splashing too much on his entries and that was killing his score.
He was wrong. His reaction to learning of his score was a priceless moment, Montgomery said.
“It was definitely a heart-stopper,” she said. “Seeing his face light up after he knew he broke the record, it’s unexplainable.”
His coach, teammates and parents aren’t the only ones impressed with his athletics endeavors, Knecht added. When John Farrell, who now lives in Texas, got word of the young athlete who bested his score from 1986, the former record-holder wrote him a letter, which was hand-delivered to Rader during school. The note read:
Congratulations on breaking my 31-year-old diving record — Job well done! I look forward to seeing your future successes.
Keep those toes pointed!
— John Farrell ’86.
A student of the sport
Whenever a new diver joins the team, Rader is the one Knecht can count on to be a good role model and teacher.
Helping teach tucks and spins comes naturally to the diving veteran, who regularly lands dives at a 3.0 difficulty level and above, while most high school competitors’ attempts are around 2.2, Knecht said.
Rader has a natural awareness of his form and aerial positioning, Knecht said. At Greenfield-Central’s home meet against Mt. Vernon on Dec. 12, Rader cleanly landed a back 2½, one of the most challenging dives high school divers normally attempt on a one-meter board, Rader said.
“Those are high-reward dives that can be catastrophic to your score if you miss them,” Knecht said. “Those are pretty tough dives to achieve at that level in high school.”
“He’s a very good student of the sport of diving,” he added.
Rader’s teammates know him to have a likable, easy-going demeanor and goofy personality in most environments. But on the diving board, he takes his skill progression seriously, Knecht said.
Last year as a junior Rader was a Top-16 contender in Indiana, placing 14th at the state competition. And he plans to shoot higher from there, Rader said.
Every night when he eats dinner, Rader searches YouTube for highlight footage of Olympic champions like gold-medalist Greg Louganis. One day Rader hopes to compete at a national level and achieve the same kind of “poetry in the air” that his hero did.
But there is much training to be done before coming anywhere near that particular goal, Rader said. As always, Rader plans on enduring plenty of back and belly smacks on the surface of the water before attaining that kind of perfection.
Getting out of the pool to try again is all part of the process, Rader said.
“Well that’s the good part about diving,” Rader said with a grin. “It’s not landing on the ground.”
Moving forward, Rader plans to dive in college, although he is not certain of where specifically. He recently has researched competitive diving at the University of Indianapolis, which has piqued his interest.
Most high school divers don’t have much experience training on a 3-meter board, a necessary skill for an athlete wanting to advance to a collegiate pool.
But Rader has a significant advantage in that area, Knecht said. He’s put in enough extra hours in club swimming and diving and has already added almost 11 3-meter dives to his repertoire.
Given his recent accomplishments, Rader’s future athletics career looks bright, Knecht added.
“There would be a ton of schools that would be happy to have him,” Knecht said.