West Valley Preps
It is not that unusual for an athlete to pick up a sport while in high school and excel in it.
But to start halfway through high school? And to take home a medal from the state meet? That is rare territory.
Yet Liberty diver Evan Honer did exactly that during his junior year, his first experience with the sport. Honer placed second in the Division II diving meet, behind Centennial sophomore Daniel Muller, with a score of 457.05 points.
“Evan came to me, new to springboard diving, an accomplished gymnast which was a great advantage in that he was able to adjust his skills to the diving board with relative ease. I knew a month in last year that he could be a contender to medal in the 2017 state dive championships … turned out I was right, Evan represented Liberty High School in a big way with a silver medal,” stated Liberty diving coach Mark Conte in an email.
That background in gymnastics, as well as trampoline aerials and spiritline served Honer well. He said he was able to land a front 2 1/2 flip dive two days after starting.
Still, his transition to the sport was very casual.
“I never really thought of diving. In my junior year I heard diving, and I thought, ‘I probably could do that,’” Honer said. “Coach Conte helped me transition to diving boards. The flipping part of it came easily. Some of the harder stuff was the board work and placement.”
Honer won most of his early meets.
Conte stated that Honer had to learn 11 dives in a short period of time in order to compete. Reverse somersaults and twisting dives seemed to take a good bit of effort to conquer, but later in the year, Conte said, he was handling those as well.
Honer’s chilled out demeanor also contributed to his unusual early success in the sport.
“Evan is a laid back kinda guy which serves him well in competition. He doesn’t rattle easily and demonstrates a determination that allows him to perform at the highest level consistently,” Conte stated. “He is a graceful and acrobatic diver who entertains while he competes. He is a delight to watch.”
More might have been made about Honer’s debut if not for the emergence of another diver from Peoria, Centennial senior Daniel Muller.
As a sophomore last year, Muller dominated the Division II meets. Muller posted a score of 518.25, the best in the state by a fairly large margin.
“It was good. Daniel Muller is insanely good — props to him,” Honer said. “I got to know him a little bit.”
They will bump into each other some this year, but will not compete again at state. Liberty moved up to Division I this year.
Based on last year’s scores, that change gives Honer a better chance of winning state. He has the top points total of any returning diver in the division dominated by the East Valley.
Being a relative newcomer to the sport and new to the division, he said he barely knows any of his new competition. His coach said he’s comfortable in Honer’s chances.
“This year we started where we left off so his improvement and ability to add twist and rotations to his dives gives him a great chance to, once again, represent the Lions at the Big Dance, the 2018 state championships, and medal again this year,” Conte stated.
Honer originally planned to join the Phoenix Dive Club — which meets at the Brophy Aquatic Center — in the offseason. Instead, he and joined the Dive Neptune club late in the summer and trained at Foothills Aquatic Center in Glendale.
Honer said he hopes for first place but is not putting much pressure on himself.
“I have a harder list. Last year, I didn’t enter with my head on all of my dives, I landed on my feet with a lot of them,” Honer said. “This year I’m trying to land on my head with all of them.”
He also plays volleyball for Liberty.
Honer said he intends to study in a business-related major in college. While he has no offers yet, diving is creeping into the picture.
“I feel like I could (dive in college),” Honer said.