Even at age 8, Riverside-Brookfield High School senior Harrison Nolan realized quickly that diving was his passion.
His ability to learn and refine dives continues just as rapidly.
“I loved [diving] right away. I think I loved the fact that I was able to pick it up super quickly,” Nolan said. “I just had a really good time learning what I was doing. I liked the coaches I was working with. Just a great experience all around.”
Already with two top-five IHSA state finishes and roughly 10 years of Windy City Diving club training under coach Susan Bromberg, Nolan should contend for the Bulldogs’ first boys diving state championship and only the second in the sport along with John Scheda’s 50-yard freestyle swimming title in 1964.
Nolan was second at the 2020 state meet (522.95 points) to then Homewood-Flossmoor senior and two-time champion Jack Williams (544.20) after taking fifth as a freshman (480.25). COVID-19 meant no 2021 state series, but Nolan had the second-highest score among conference meets.
“I’ve got the target on my back. It keeps me going and motivated to keep on pushing through to get all of my reps, all of my weight training done, just making sure I’m doing everything I can to stay on top,” Nolan said. “That would be pretty cool, being the first.”
“He’s very motivated. It’s definitely one of his goals. And he’s really good in competition,” RBHS diving coach Amy Phillips said. “When the stakes are high, he just really focuses on what he needs to do each dive, does the best he can, and then moves on to the next one. And he has fun with it.”
Nolan was named to the U.S. Junior National Team as a sophomore and junior. COVID restrictions, however, canceled opportunities to represent the U.S. at the junior Pan American Games. Nolan will continue pursuing those opportunities while he competes for the University of Kentucky.
At first, it seemed that soccer might be Nolan’s primary sport. His father, Mark, was born in England and played professionally for Chester F.C. He also coaches trampoline and used that in teaching Harrison his first somersault for diving.
While playing youth soccer, Nolan began diving for the Riverside Golf Club team, finding immediate success. A coach suggested Windy City Diving to Nolan.
“I joined at 8 years old, which happened to be the best decision I’ve ever made. Ever since I started working with Susan, it just completely changed my career,” Nolan said.
“Diving is one of the most mentally challenging sports out there. It can be terrifying, and just being able to push yourself through that but keep your composure is a huge part that you can carry on to a lot of aspects of life.”
Nolan continues striving for his best. This summer marked his first national competition in platform besides springboard since his first nationals in 2014.
In IHSA competition, Nolan enjoyed his 2020 battle with good friend Williams much more than his fifth-place freshman finish.
“As a freshman, I’ve got to say I wasn’t really satisfied. It wasn’t necessarily the place that mattered. I just wanted to go in there and have a good performance,” Nolan said.
“Sophomore season was awesome. [Williams] was one of my best buds. It was awesome to dive with him, have meets with him, seeing both of us succeed.”
Nolan’s college signing also came about quickly and turned out for the best.
In early April, Nolan verbally committed to Alabama. He reconsidered when the coaching situation remained unresolved by the Nov. 10 signing day.
Searching for options, he visited Kentucky in November and verbally committed on the spot after meeting and observing diving coach Ted Hautau.
“I can just tell we’re going to be able to do great things together. It’s very similar to what Coach Bromberg does,” Nolan said.