You’ve got to love moms.
Because, no matter what, they’re always our biggest fans.
That’s certainly the case for Tremper High School junior Evan Arneson, who knows he’ll always have at least one person in his rooting section — his mom, Julie Schlick.
“Her whole Facebook is like a fan page,” Arneson says with a laugh.
“… I literally told her, ‘You don’t need to post all this stuff.’ She’s like, ‘No, I’m so happy about it.’”
She has good reason to be.
Last Saturday (Feb. 18), Arneson completed a stellar season with the Tremper boys swimming and diving team by placing fourth in the diving competition in the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 1 State Meet at the Waukesha South High School Natatorium.
The fourth-place finish placed Arneson on the podium in his second trip to the State Meet. He placed 16th at state as a sophomore in 2022. The top six in each event reach the podium as medalists.
“I was surprised,” Arneson admitted in a phone interview Friday morning about finishing on the State Meet podium. “I was aiming for sixth place, and I actually wasn’t sure if I was even going to get that this year.
“I did know I had it in me, because I did make a lot of progress throughout the season, especially toward the end. I really kind of kicked into gear with it. I was really hoping I’d get on the podium, and I was really surprised I got fourth. I was really happy with it.”
For his fourth-place finish in this year’s State Meet, and for his season overall for the Tremper boys swimming and diving team, Arneson has been named this week’s Kenosha.com High School Athlete of the Week.
Coached by aunt
It’s been a banner year for the Tremper diving program, both boys and girls.
This fall, senior Teiya Brewster — also a Kenosha.com High School Athlete of the Week — placed ninth at the WIAA Division 1 State Girls Meet in diving. In the State Boys Meet last Saturday, Arneson was one of two Trojans who qualified, as sophomore Norberto Lopez also qualified and placed 17th in his first state appearance.
Tremper’s boys diving team is coached by Jackie Turner, a former Tremper diver herself who happens to be Julie Schlick’s sister and Arneson’s aunt. Turner also coaches Arneson during his club season with Racine’s Schroeder Swim and Dive, which bases its diving program at the brand-new Racine Unified Aquatic Center.
Turner, formerly Schani, placed sixth in diving at the WIAA Division 1 State Girls Meet as a Tremper senior in 2002.
“I think it’s really cool,” Arneson said when asked what it’s like to be coached by his aunt. “We have a lot of fun, and it’s cool how comfortable I am with her, obviously, since she’s family. I think it’s something really fun.
“It’s a cool way to get to know her a lot more, too.”
This season, Arneson won the diving title at the Southeast Conference Meet, though he said he didn’t dive very well in that event. But he came through in a WIAA Division 1 sectional at the Racine Unified Aquatic Center with a score of 463.3 — competitors are scored over 11 dives, with scores multiplied by difficulty of dive for a final total — to easily win the sectional title and advance to his second State Meet.
At state, Arneson made it through the preliminary round, which cut the 24-diver field down to 20 after five dives, and then through the semifinals, which cut the field down to 16 following eight dives.
When the final 11-dive scores were added up, Arneson finished at 439.5, good for fourth place behind Mequon Homestead senior David Krol (518.45), Hudson senior Jackson Rodriguez (488.7) and Waukesha South/Catholic Memorial sophomore Brady Huettl (462.8).
Obviously, choosing harder dives gives a competitor the chance for a higher score. But Arneson said he and his aunt prefer to focus on perfecting simpler dives in order to accumulate better averages throughout the competition.
“She’s big on that,” Arneson said. “She doesn’t care how hard the dive is. If you do something easier and score higher on it, we’d rather take that any day, just because you’ll get a better score at the end of it, if you do the math.
“… Whichever one is more consistent and turns out to have a higher score, that’s what we’ll go with. Sometimes you’ve got to choose something that’s easier that’ll help you out in the end.”
Diving, granted, is not a sport that most begin practicing at a young age.
Like most kids, Arneson said he tried baseball and basketball as a youngster. He even played football at Tremper as a freshman and sophomore before deciding to quit because he had suffered too many nagging injuries and decided it just wasn’t worth it.
Meanwhile, he would sometimes attend open gym at Scamps Gymnastics growing up and had taught himself to flip around pretty proficiently on trampolines. His aunt noticed this and pushed Arneson to give diving a try.
“She told me to try going to the YMCA with her,” Arneson said. “I was like, ‘All right, yeah, I’ll try it out.’ I think I was like 13.
“… She told me to start going, so I just started going, and it was a lot of fun and something I just stuck with for years.”
Being a diver also takes a unique fearlessness, because you’re occasionally going to smack your stomach or back on the water, and hitting the diving board on your way down is always in play, too. There’s also the fear of heights, but Arneson said jumping from the 3-meter diving board in club diving has made the 1-meter board of high school competition seem pretty easy.
All together, diving is as much a mental sport as a physical one.
“A lot of people think it’s just kind of jumping off a board and doing a little flip or something,” Arneson said. “But there are so many things you have to think about. It’s a big mental thing, to be honest.
“You really don’t need to be the strongest guy. Honestly, a lot of it’s just the technique of it. … You’ve got to jump correctly, and you’ve got to think about how you’re ‘throwing’ and how your form is, if your legs (are) together, if your toes are pointed, and when to come out of the flip so you don’t (go) vertical, how close you are to the board. There’s just a ton of stuff you’ve got to think about in just a short amount of time.
“… It took me a little bit. It took me a couple years to (be) like, ‘OK, I know what I’m doing. I know I have to jump straight up.’ There’s a lot of little things to it.”
And has Arneson ever suffered a bad belly-flop? Well, of course.
“I’ve had some good smacks once in a while,” he said with a laugh. “Obviously, it hurts for like the first five seconds when you’re in the water, and then it eventually goes away and your back feels really hot. It’s like the weirdest thing.”
Within a week of finishing fourth at the State Meet, Arneson said he was already back at the Racine Unified Aquatic Center working with his club program. He said the state-of-the-art facility has a belt that attaches to the ceiling and to the diver, so that divers can slow themselves down by pulling on it as they go into the water.
This will allow Arneson to practice more difficult dives without as much risk of injury, so he can hopefully perfect them for competition.
After all, he has room to move up as a senior at next year’s State Meet.
“I want to get first place next year,” Arneson said. “That’s my goal right now. I’m going to start working now.”
He’s also starting to consider the possibility of diving in college, though as a junior still, Arneson said he hasn’t thought too much yet about potential college plans.
“I’ve thought about it, even a lot more this year,” Arneson said of diving in college. “I really think I would enjoy doing it, especially if I could get some sort of scholarship eventually, just to help pay for it.”
Outside the pool, Arneson is an avid guitar player, something he said he started doing in seventh grade.
He plays both regular guitar and bass guitar, playing the latter instrument with his band, Gold Label, which Arneson described as “indie rock.” Arneson said Gold Label has performed multiple times at Kenosha Creative Space and is hoping to keep playing for others.
“We’re planning on going to a new place in town,” Arneson said. “We’re trying to find some new places in Kenosha.”
Actually, Arneson said, being on the stage playing music and being on the diving board are similar experiences.
“Being on the spot, playing — I’m also on the spot during diving, because everybody has to be dead silent, and then everything’s on you,” Arneson said. “That probably correlates for me. If I get nervous playing in front of people I know and stuff, I have to calm down naturally.
“So I’ll calm myself down.”
And you can bet Arneson’s mom is in the front row cheering, just as she is by the diving board from the fan section.
“She just records me and makes some hootin’-and-hollerin’ noises,” Arneson said.
“5 QUESTIONS WITH” EVAN ARNESON
Favorite food? “I like souffles at Panera (Bread). Those are really good.”
Favorite movie? “I like ‘Bruce Almighty.’ That’s a good movie. I haven’t seen that one in a while.”
Favorite musical artist? “That’s a good one. I like a lot of different music. I like anything from rock to ‘80s music. I like all that stuff.” … What are you listening to right now? … “Probably, let’s just go with Slipknot. … Anything from Frank Sinatra to the weird ‘80s music, anything.”
Favorite athlete? “Since it’s about diving, I’ll go with Steele Johnson (American diver who won an Olympic silver medal at the 2016 Rio Games).”
Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years? “Probably something with, like, carpentry, something with working on things, projects and stuff. Maybe starting my own business or something.”