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Noam Kulbak dives into Highland Park history


Highland Park senior Noam Kulbak has long loved math and science.

“Something moves in my brain about this,” Kulbak said. “I love architecture and engineering. I probably started building things when I was 3 years old. “I’ve been building things all my life.”

Kulbak has an impressive academic resume – he has a weighted 4.65 GPA – and also has a formidable body of work as a diver.

“My mom and dad say I’m a better student than I am a diver,” he said. “I don’t think it’s right, but I’m taking academics seriously because I know I won’t have that after college and I need to be careful about my future.”

Kulbak has a bright future in and out of the pool. The determined and enthusiastic Penn State mechanical engineer started diving in fifth grade.

“As a kid, I took it seriously, but I was just doing it for the sake of doing it,” he said. “I went to the state meet in 2020 when I was in eighth grade. I saw the divers and said, ‘I want to be like that, too.’ I want to go to DI. ‘I want to win state.’ And I made it all happen.”

Kulbak completed the last item on his checklist by scoring 531.30 points to win the state championship on Saturday at FMC Natatorium in Westmont. He fell 1.3 points behind Rolling Meadows senior Kyren Whiting after Friday’s qualifying rounds but completed all three dives on Saturday.

Cooper Kosanovich, a junior from Nazareth, came second with 508.85 points, while Whiting came third with 502.30 points.

Highland Park’s Noam Kulbak (center) stands on the podium with Nazareth’s Cooper Kosanovich (left) and Rolling Meadows’ Kyren Whiting after finishing first, second and third, respectively, in diving at the state meet at FMC Natatorium in Westmont on Saturday, Feb. 2 standing on top. 24, 2024. (Troy Stolt / Haber-Sun)

Kulbak is the second Highland Park diver to win the state title. He joined John Robbins in winning in 1959.

“His last three dives have been amazing,” Highland Park diving coach Jonathan Roby said. “We stacked the last two with quite a lot (of difficulty). “We feel like he can make those dives and we knew he would need them and he did it, which was great.”

Roby is a three-time state medalist for Glenbrook North, finishing second in 2009 and 2010. Under his mentorship, Kulbak also won three medals, placing fifth as a sophomore and second as a junior.

But Kulbak surpassed Roby by heeding his advice and focusing on form rather than flash.

“This wasn’t about improving the difficulty of my dives,” Kulbak said. “He was continuing the same dives but fine-tuning them.

“Actually, I did the same dives and orders this year as I did last year, but everything was a little sharper. “I’m competing with a tough roster, but (the focus) was on doing the same dives I did last year, just a little bit better.”

Kulbak worked on tighter dives throughout the season but continued his bread-and-butter job in the postseason.

“My coach preaches that it’s a numbers game and that harder challenges can pay off but are riskier,” Kulbak said. “So the important thing was to stay consistent. I had a miss at the meeting. This was my fourth dive, one of my most difficult dives. I think there were 4s and 5s, so it was a little tough, but it was good to be back.”

The comeback was fueled by more than just physical prowess.

“He’s mentally very tough,” Roby said. “It doesn’t really matter what we throw at it. I can present him with any scenario. He’ll still get on the board and dive the best he can. It’s just consistent.”

Kulbak has consistently set his sights on winning a state title.

“Coming into the team my freshman year, I knew that was my goal from the moment I stepped on the pool deck,” he said. “It was my biggest dream in life so far.

“This may sound like a cliché, but it really is.”

Chasing his dream wasn’t easy, of course, and Kulbak didn’t have any plans or energy to celebrate on Saturday night.

“I’ve slept 10 hours total over the last three nights,” he said. “Nerves went crazy. “I’m running on pure adrenaline right now, and there’s no better feeling than finishing high school this way.”

It’s sort of the end of a partnership for Roby and Kulbak, whose high school careers shared many similarities. For example, Roby holds a record of 11 dives in the Maine West pool, while Kulbak holds a record of six dives. Kulbak will head to the Big Ten, as will Roby, who competed for Minnesota.

“He’s ready for the next level,” Roby said. “It was a blessing to have him on the pool deck and on the board.”

Matt Le Cren is a freelance reporter.


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