Webster Groves’ Loving caps career with third consecutive diving title

Listiyo Ridawer

Moments after the final dive of his storied high school diving career, Bennet Loving got caught up in the moment.

“I was about to cry actually because I came out of the water and I saw my coach tearing up,” the Webster Groves senior said. “I was feeling very gratified. I’ve been working for five years and I’m just happy.”

Loving had just wrapped up his third successive Class 1 one-meter diving championship that Saturday morning in November at St. Peters Rec-Plex and with it earned the honor of being this year’s Post-Dispatch All-Metro boys swimming and diving athlete of the year.

Loving became the first diver to win three consecutive state titles since Hickman’s David Bonuchi did it from 2007-2009 and he is the second Statesmen diver to accomplish the feat after Steve Braun did it from 1977-1979.

“It’s very well-deserved for somebody who has worked really hard for many, many years now,” Webster Groves diving coach Leah Callahan said.

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Class 1 Diving Championship

Webster Groves’ Bennet Loving dives during the Class 1 Diving Championship, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, at the St. Peters Rec-Plex in St. Peters, Mo. Michael Gulledge, Special to STLhighschoolsports.com

The very first state meet dive of Loving’s career didn’t go so hot. His score put him in 16th place after that first dive, which is the cutoff point after Round 6 to make the finals. He rebounded within the meet to actually take the lead before settling for a third-place debut on the state diving stage, just eight points behind the winner.

“I was really happy about getting third, especially as a freshman,” he said. “It took a lot of work to get there and I fought really hard for that spot.”

That finish set the stage for what Loving accomplished the next three years.

He won the state title as a sophomore by just more than 15 points before compiling an impressive 515.90 points as a junior to win his second successive diving crown and capping it off this year with another high point total (499.05) and a massive margin of victory (135.55).

“He’s really always challenged himself,” Callahan said. “He could have plateaued and stayed where he was because he was being really successful, but he definitely pushed himself. He got harder dives, he became a leader, he’s one of our captains this year. Watching him grow personally and also with diving has been really exciting.”

The higher point totals Loving scored his last three years were a direct result of ramping up his game on the diving board, although he didn’t want his huge lead in his final meet to creep into his mind and mess up his grand finish.

“Some of the dives I performed today were difficult and I never ever thought I’d be doing those dives,” he said right after the state meet. “I try not to get in my own head when I think about the lead and stuff. I think if I just keep it how I’m going, I’ll be just fine.”

Class 1 Diving Championship

Webster Groves’ Bennet Loving dives during the Class 1 Diving Championship, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, at the St. Peters Rec-Plex in St. Peters, Mo. Michael Gulledge, Special to STLhighschoolsports.com

Two other Webster Groves divers also competed at state, with sophomore John Lewis making the finals and finishing 12th, while junior John Trueman fell just short after the first round of cuts and ended up 22nd.

Callahan said her three-time state champion has been instrumental in the younger divers’ development and success.

“He’s been really, really helpful with my other boys and I think he plays a large role in their success,” she said. “And I think it’s been exciting for him, too, to pass his knowledge along.”

Loving’s start in diving came after he moved to Webster Groves six years ago. He gave the sport a try, fell in love with it and wanted to take it a little bit farther, so he took some year-round lessons and was hooked for life.

“I like the competition aspect of it because you have to have a strong mental game,” he said. “Also, it just keeps you on your toes all the time. You don’t know if somebody’s going to mess up or you might mess up, so you’re kind of always on the edge of your seat.”

Loving wants to dive in college and is still in the process of sifting through his options. Wherever he ends up, his coach feels he will be successful at the next level.

“His attitude and his work ethic is going to be really helpful for him no matter what he does or where he goes,” Callahan said. “I think once he gets to college level, he’ll just keep growing.”

When Loving gets to where he’s going at the next level, he can look back fondly on his rapid rise to success with the Statesmen.

“It’s a little bit unbelievable,” he said. “I honestly didn’t think I would really be here. When I first started diving five years ago, I never thought I’d end up a three-time state champion.”

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