WINNETKA – When Kegan Skelton recounts details of his state diving title in the years to come, surely the tale will include his suit's malfunction.
Specifically, the drawstring that broke as the Centennial senior was getting suited up in the New Trier High School locker room minutes before the start of warmup dives on Saturday.
"I was so nervous," Skelton said. "I was like 'Oh my God, I can't believe this is happening.' I was in shock."
Skelton frantically tried to pull out the portion of the broken string lodged in the fabric of the suit, but it was no use.
"I was freaking out," he said.
Thankfully, Skelton had not one, but two warmup suits along for the trip. After heading out to the pool deck to explain his quandary to the meet's diving referee – with suits in hand for inspection – Skelton got the go-ahead to use a warmup suit in the 12-diver finals.
After a quick change and a dash back to the deck, there was time for only three practice dives. Not that it showed once the three-dive finals began.
As he had been the previous day in qualifying, Skelton was in top form on each of his attempts to keep a firm hold on his lead and win his first state crown by more than 25 points.
"He hit all 11 (dives)," Chargers diving coach Don Waybright said. "I mean, he hit all 11. And I figured if he could hit all 11 nobody could beat him. And that's what happened."
Skelton, who had finished sixth at state last year and seventh as a sophomore, climbed to the top of the awards podium this time after scoring 487.85 points. Senior George Doran of Wheaton co-op was second with 462.45.
"I couldn't be more proud of myself," Skelton said. "Hitting 11 out of 11 for the first time (in my career), and on my last chance where it all counts ... I'm ecstatic."
So was Waybright, who was in his final day of coaching Centennial divers. Waybright, who will retire from teaching and coaching in the Unit 4 school district after this year, bowed out with a third state diving champion in 37 years on the Charger staff.
"It's like a dream come true," Waybright said. "Everybody would love to go out on top. But to actually do it, make it become a reality, it's just like a dream."
Skelton follows in the state title footsteps of ex-Chargers Jake Dorsey (1999) and Chris Schehlein (2003). However, Waybright long has regarded 2002 state runner-up Daniel Choe as the best diver he's ever coached. At least until Saturday.
"After today's performance, he's the best diver I've ever had," Waybright said of Skelton. "There's no doubt."