Austin’s dueling divers

Published 11:06 pm Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Austin divers Alec Anderson, left, and Caleb Bentley each finished in the top-five at the Big Nine meet last week and both are hoping to make some noise as the Section 1A meet next week. -- Rocky Hulne/

What a difference a year makes.

One year ago, Austin diver Caleb Bentley took sixth in the Big Nine meet and Alec Anderson was out of the lineup due to a surgery.

This year, Bentley, a senior, took first and Anderson, a sophomore, took fourth place in the Big Nine meet.

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The sudden improvement by both divers is not a coincidence as they have been pushing each other all season long. Anderson has even beaten Bentley in a few meets this year, although he does concede that his elder is currently the diver to beat for the Packers.

“Every single meet we’re trying to beat each other. I’m at least trying to beat him because he’s got a little bit over me,” Anderson said. “I think it helps make me a lot better. I want to beat him and I want to move up to the next level. Then I push him too so it kind of helps both of us out.”

Bentley certainly does not mind Anderson’s presence on the team as he’s not just tested on meet days. He’s also tested in practice on a daily basis.

“He’s gotten a lot better this year and he’s pushing me to get better scores,” Bentley said. “It’s a good thing.”

Bentley, who is the first Austin diver to win a Big Nine title since 2003, had his best outing of the season when he posted a score of 343.76 at the Big Nine meet this past Saturday. He’s seen his scores go up significantly this season after perfecting some of his dives.

“Last year I had all of the same dives that I could do, but this year I’ve just been perfecting them and getting the scores I want to,” Bentley said.

For Anderson, he’s put himself on the diving scene this year after being nearly invisible last year. He said one of his fellow divers told him that nobody expected him to be where he was at the conference meet.

“I just kind of worked hard all season and we’ve all gotten a lot better,” Anderson said. “(eighth grader) Courtland Healey’s making finals now and me and Caleb are both looking at state.”

The Packers will compete in the Section 1A preliminaries Feb. 23 at Inver Grove Heights. The finals will be held Feb. 25 at Inver Grove Heights.

Bentley and Anderson are in the mix to be one of the four state qualifying divers.

“If I do as well as I did at the Big Nine meet, it should be easy (to get so state),” Bentley said. “That’s the best I’ve ever did and I got all my dives the way they’re supposed to be. It was pretty nice.”

Anderson said he’s going to ride with the dives that have gotten him this far at the section meet.

“I’m pretty much staying with what I got,” he said. “I just have one big one that I have to get down better.”

While Bentley and Anderson both started diving because they thought it looked fun, they have progressed the past three years thanks to the help of Austin diving coach Kris Carroll, who took over three years ago.

Carroll said her divers have improved due to the work they’ve put in.

“They both went to summer diving camp and they’ve both been very enthusiastic about improving this year,” she said. “We’re hoping to get one or both of them to state.”

During Bentley’s freshman year, there was no diving coach.

“That was kind of a bad year and I developed some bad habits, but then Kris came and I started getting better,” Bentley said.

Carroll was named Big Nine diving coach of the year this season.