by Dennis Dalman
Sometimes Sartell swimmer and diving champ Tanner Nordlund can’t help but feel as if circumstances are conspiring against him.
Last year, at the very peak of competition for Class A state diving championships, Nordlund’s foot hit the diving board, and his coach – against Nordlund’s wishes – forced him to withdraw with his foot in a brace and a trip to the hospital. He was just five points away from a likely first-place finish.
At the Section Swim Meet two weeks ago, Nordlund came down with a nasty case of the flu – a bug that also bit some of his teammates. Then Nordlund, a senior, rapidly developed full-blown pneumonia, a middle-ear infection and a nasal infection. He had to forego vital practice of his diving skills for a week.
Doctors wanted to put him in the hospital, but Nordlund had other plans.
“I told them I can’t go to the hospital,” he said. “I told them I have a state diving meet starting Thursday.”
The doctor warned him if he felt even slightly sick suddenly during the meet, he must immediately call for medical help. In the meantime, he received antibiotic shots and pills to take throughout the meet.
“I felt pretty rough,” he said. “Pretty beat up.”
But through sheer grit and determination, Nordlund summoned the strength to become the Class A diving champion last week at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center, beating back 16 other divers. Nordlund has won in the sectional competition for the past three consecutive years and has been to the state meet three times.
“It’s just what I was going for,” Nordlund said of his win. “It was an awesome feeling to win that state championship. Last year, I was so close, until my foot hit the (diving) board.”
At the very last, Nordlund developed a case of nerves.
“The last dive – called an inward dive – was the most difficult, and I needed a certain score on that dive. I wasn’t sure I could do it. I was getting winded by then. I was coughing, and I felt weak. But I managed to do it, and I won by two points.”
Nordlund’s cumulative score from 11 dives was 359.35. Diver Bennett Woltjer of Willmar came in second.
Another happy moment for Nordlund came when his good friend, fellow Sabre teammate Alex VanHeel, joined him on the podium at awards time. VanHeel placed eighth.
“We (Sartell Sabres) were the only team to put two players up on that podium,” Nordlund said.
The Sartell Sabre Swim Team placed 12th at the state meet with a 77-point total. The big winner of the meet, with a 330-point total, was St. Thomas Academy.
“We beat Willmar by two points,” Nordlund said. “We were really happy about that.”
The Sabres’ 200-yard medley relay team placed 10th and 11th in the free-style relay. The relay swimmers were Jack Hellie, Jack Nieters, Drew Reitz and Drew Wolfe. Wolfe placed 14th in the 200-yard individual medley and 16th in the 100-yard breaststroke. Sabre swimmer Ian Lawson placed 13th in that same race (breaststroke). Hellie placed seventh in the 50-yard free-style race.
Nordlund is fortunately well on the way to a full recovery from his flu and other ailments. In fact, earlier this week he left for a Club Diving Meet near Denver.
Nordlund’s family is, of course, very proud of him and cheered him on at the meet. The fan contingent included his parents, Tim and Michelle, younger siblings Tate and Michayla; grandparents, an uncle and aunt, and a cousin. Also at the meet was Nordlund’s other brother Trever, 15, who is also a member of the Sartell Sabre Swim Team and who also competed in the meet as a member of the 400-yard free-style relay, who swam it in consolation race, coming in at 11th place.
The Sartell Sabres’ head coach is Jason Anderson. Its diving coach is Nicole Thull. Twelve members of the Sabre Swim Team competed at the state meet. There are about 30 swimmers on the team, Nordlund noted.