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Swim and dive: Brothers Caden and Kyler Kavanagh push each other during memorable run to state together

Caden, a senior and three-time state entrant, enjoyed every minute of watching his younger brother flourish alongside him this season. He says the sky is the limit now for Kyler, an 8th-grader who Caden and diving coach Aaron Rooney said has the want-to and work ethic to do big things over the rest of his career.

Kyler Kavanagh and Caden Kavanagh
Alexandria 8th-grader Kyler Kavanagh, right, points to the crowd after winning the Section 5A diving championship on Feb. 26, 2022, with his older brother, senior Caden Kavanagh, right next to Kyler cheering him on. Caden became a three-time state entrant for the Cardinals this winter season, and he says the sky is the limit going forward for younger brother Kyler, who burst onto the scene this year as one of the best young divers in the state at the Class A level.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

Alexandria 8th-grader Kyler Kavanagh stood atop the podium with a big smile on his face after winning the Section 5A diving championship in his home pool on Feb. 26 and pointed into the crowd that was cheering him on as his name was announced.

Right next to Kyler leading those cheers was his older brother, Caden.

Kyler, with a total score of 432 at the section meet, had edged Caden’s score of 413 to win the 5A crown, but if there is any sibling rivalry among them, it does not show. All season — all the way to the state finals — these two have been each others biggest fans.

“It’s been really fun to see their relationship build this year,” Alexandria diving coach Aaron Rooney said. “It makes me proud to have two state finalists on the same team pushing each other and watching the progression each makes every day. I’ve been especially impressed with Caden’s mentality this year. Early on, we could see Kyler getting better and Caden told me, ‘I’m always going to try to beat him, but I’m also going to cheer for him to beat me.’ Both boys have embraced that mindset and it’s been amazing to see. You don’t get to the state finals by accident. They have worked really hard and pushed each other to get there.”

Caden and Kyler have gone back and forth in terms of who beat who throughout the season. In the final meet of his career, Caden edged Kyler by one spot in the standings.

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Kavanaghs and Aaron Rooney
Alexandria diving coach Aaron Rooney watches video with state divers Kyler Kavanagh, middle, and Caden Kavanagh during the Class A state meet on March 5, 2022.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

Both made it out of prelims at the Class A state meet to compete among the top-16 divers during the finals on March 5. Caden finished 13th with a finals score of 335.55, while Kyler was right next to him in 14th with 321.45 points.

“It’s cool because not a lot of people get that,” Caden said. “To have a younger brother come down here and perform at the highest level we can in high school together, it’s just something I’m not going to take for granted. I enjoyed every minute of it. At the end of the day, we scored points for our team and helped us get that second place in state. You can’t really be mad about that. I’m happy with how (Saturday) went.”

Caden finished his Cardinals career as a three-time state entrant. His growth helped Alexandria become a well-rounded team between swimming and diving as the Cardinals earned back-to-back state runner-up finishes.

“Without Caden leading the way, I really don’t know if we would have Kyler (in the program),” Rooney said. “He does a lot of trampoline work in the summer, but had Caden not come out for diving, who knows if we would have Kyler. Caden’s leadership this year has been top notch in and out of the pool showing his brother the ropes, and now Kyler is poised to take our top spot as just a freshman next season.”

Caden Kavanagh
Alexandria senior Caden Kavanagh competes at the Class A state finals in diving on March 5, 2022 at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis where he finished 13th with a finals score of 335.55.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

Having a senior brother has helped not only in learning how to train and perform, but in removing some of the nerves that inevitably come with being a young athlete who is emerging as one of the best divers at each meet.

“It was cool,” Kyler said of having Caden by his side. “It was like having a second coach. It was a different perspective for people telling me what to do.”

Kyler seems well positioned to take on the challenge of replacing Caden as a leader with this diving group. Being a good leader is ultimately his main goal right now.

“I just want people to use me as a role model,” Kyler said. “I want people who are young to follow what I do.”

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Kyler burst onto the scene this past season with improvement that outsiders may not have seen coming. He finished ninth at the Section 5A meet as a 7th-grader in 2021. It’s a big jump going from there to section champion a year later, but his older brother knows how it happened.

“All the hard work he puts in in the offseason,” Caden said of what impresses him most about Kyler. “Last year, obviously he grew, but he’s gotten so much better from last season. Seeing everything he’s done in the offseason, from the trampoline work to the on-ground work, everything he’s done to get where he’s at today is impressive.”

That work ethic and drive to get better is why Caden sees a bright future for Kyler.

Kyler Kavanagh
Alexandria 8th-grader Kyler Kavanagh dives at the Class A state meet on March 5, 2022 where he finished 14th with a finals score of 321.45.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

“The sky is the limit,” Caden said. “Obviously, he has big goals. I have big goals I want him to accomplish. I think with hard work, and if he continues to want to get better and not settle for where he’s at, he can do whatever he wants.”

Kyler said he enjoyed the experience of his first state meet and watching how the top divers perform on the biggest stage.

“I really enjoyed seeing a lot of people that I can look up to,” Kyler said. “One thing I learned is no matter how hard you try, there’s someone else trying just as hard or harder. You got to keep grinding, keep going for it.”

Rooney sees that drive to be one of the best in Kyler. It’s why he is excited about the future for a young athlete who showcased so much growth this year.

“He’s incredibly dedicated, borderline obsessive, which from my perspective makes the coaching very easy,” Rooney said. “I know I can push him to accomplish everything he wants. The love he has for diving will lead to huge success as long as he chooses to work hard and keep progressing. He knows what it takes to be elite, but we still have a long way to go. It’s always fun to have success at a young age. He has already cemented himself in Alexandria history, claiming the third overall spot as just an 8th-grader. I’m very excited to see how he continues to improve. Each offseason is an opportunity to prove how bad he wants it.”

Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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