In fewer than six years, Max Showalter of Oak Park has gone from novice diver to one of the nation’s top amateurs.

An even faster learning curve from springboard to platform diving took him all the way to the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials.

After beginning platform training just nine months ago, Showalter competed in two platform events at the trials, which concluded Sunday in Indianapolis, Ind., to select team members for the upcoming Summer Olympics in Rio.

Showalter was third in 10-meter synchronized competition with first-time partner Zach Cooper and 14th in 10-meter individual platform, two places from the finals.

“I did better than I expected,” said Showalter, 19, a rising sophomore at Purdue University who attended Fenwick until junior year.

“My goal was to compete in the 2016 trials and make the 2020 team. I didn’t care if I came in dead last. It was just an honor to be competing. To walk away in synchronized third place and almost make the (individual) finals using three new dives, I was over the moon.”

At Fenwick, Showalter was 40th at state as a freshman and an all-state fifth in 2013 before leaving his family to train full-time at Duke University.

Recruited by Purdue for springboard, Showalter was encouraged by head coach Adam Soldati to begin platform training. Showalter initially was unable to achieve the trial’s platform qualifying standard of 385 points, but he then scored 390.10 for ninth at the Big Ten Championships in late February.

Based on that and other performances, Showalter was successfully petitioned into the trials. Showalter also was allowed by petition to compete with Cooper after his partner declined because of a back injury.  

Entering the pool deck with Cooper for the synchronized preliminaries, Showalter admits being briefly overwhelmed by the magnitude of his first Olympic trials.

“I remember seeing the camera. They’re announcing us and everyone’s cheering for you. It was the greatest payback you could get,” Showalter said.

“Everything hit me. Everything that you worked for, giving up a regular life in high school and to do what normal high school kids do and not seeing your family and friends, all of that paid off in that moment. I got emotional and then I was like, ‘All right. You did it now. Nothing for me to lose.’ I’m like, ‘I’ll try my hardest and see what happens.’ “

David Boudia and Steele Johnson easily captured the one Olympic berth for synchronized men’s diving with 1,326.57 points.

Showalter and Cooper, 18, a home-schooled diver from Greenwood, Ind., (1,025.67) also finished behind Ryan Hawkins and Toby Stanley (1,088.55).

Individually, Showalter (605.50) made the initial cut of 18 but missed the 12-diver cut for finals by 58.50 points. Boudia and Johnson also earned those two individual berths Sunday.

Boudia and Johnson are teammates of Showalter at Purdue. At the 2012 Games, Boudia, 27, earned gold in 10-meter platform and bronze in 10-meter synchronized platform with Nick McCrory.

“It motivates me more than ever to know I can be as successful as they’ve been since they are my teammates,” Showalter said. “I’m set up with the resources I need. I’m doing the same training they’re doing. It sort of reaffirms everything I’ve trained for.”

The synchronized finish for Showalter and Cooper especially was impressive considering they worked together only three months, significantly less time than other top duos. Cooper trains independently at RipFest in Indianapolis under John Wingfield, a former national team coach.

Showalter and Cooper plan to compete together at winter nationals.

“Zach’s been diving close to 12 years and he had all of the experience. I knew I needed to step up to the plate (at trials),” Showalter said.

“Zach is very, very fun, a very laid back diver. I remember I put so much pressure on myself to dive at the same caliber and got frustrated in practice. He’s like, ‘You don’t need to win practice.’ We were having a super, super good time and it kind of carried over to the competition.”

Gymnastics actually was Showalter’s initial Olympic dream. He competed for about seven years but found he no longer was having fun.

His father, Brent, suggested diving.

“My initial response was there’s no way you’ll ever get me to wear a Speedo,” Showalter said.

Within a week, Showalter was at Fenwick for a club team’s introductory diving practice. Later that day, Showalter was watching Olympic diving videos on the Internet.

“I’m like, ‘Dad, I’m going to go to the Olympics for diving,’ ” Showalter said. “I feel like the Olympics always has been a dream of mine, whether it’s gymnastics or diving.”

During winter break as a Fenwick junior, Showalter was communicating on FaceTime with national team friend Jordan Windle, who had moved to Durham, N.C., to train full-time.

Showalter was stunned when, after some rumblings in the background, Windle invited him to live with his family and also train at Duke.

“That was Jan. 4 and I moved out to North Carolina on Feb. 1,” Showalter said.

Showalter also successfully handled his next big challenge at Purdue. He not only qualified for the NCAA Championships in March but was an honorable mention All-American in platform (15th, 325.20) with a top-16 finish and 20th at 3-meter springboard (363.45), 4.15 points from the top 16.

Showalter credits his gymnastics with easing the transition to platform diving.

“The whole action and technique is so similar,” Showalter said. “Springboard is all very slow movements, being patient, letting the board do all of the work whereas platform is all brute strength.”

Thanks to the trials and now knowing everyone on the Olympic diving team, Showalter is excited about his different perspective watching these Summer Olympics.

“I know their personalities and how they’ll react to certain situations,” Showalter said. “(It’s) kind of cool to gauge what they did and what I did and kind of compare. What do I need to do if I really want to make the team (in 2020)?”

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