It was the perfect ending to a successful campaign for Colin Zeng and the Tennessee swimming and diving team.
Redshirt junior Zeng took home gold in the platform event for the second time in his collegiate career Saturday in Minneapolis as the 2018 NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships came to a close.
After dominating in the Zone B Regionals, Zeng carried over a strong performance to the national meet. This time around, though, it wasn’t a walk in the park.
In the last two rounds of the event, Zeng became locked in a tense battle with freshman Texas standout Jordan Windle, as the two put on a show for the crowd in attendance.
“It was nerve-wracking, I'll tell you that, but it was really fun to be a part of,” diving coach Dave Parrington said. “I felt pretty confident that it was going to come down to three or four guys, Colin being one of them. Certainly (Windle) being another. It was back and forth, each putting the pressure on another.”
Zeng finished with a total of 466.35 points, edging out Windle (460.45) by a narrow margin of 5.90 points. The next closest competitor finished 25 points behind, respectively.
Zeng showed resilience and determination in his quest for his second platform championship, which Parrington took notice of.
“I was a little anxious waiting (for Windle's last dive), but I knew if he hit the dive, he deserved to win,” Zeng said “It felt different winning than the first time. I never gave up. I felt tired most of the days. My first day to my last day, I never gave up.”
Zeng became the first diver in Tennessee history to capture gold in the men’s platform diving event. His prior championship came while he was attending Ohio State University.
"The final diving event of NCAA has an incredible atmosphere,” Parrington said. “There was a close team race going on. Texas, Jordan's team, was in the team championship battle. We were in a battle for top 10. There was a lot of pressure on the guys to start with for their teams. Then there's the honor of being NCAA champion. That brings a lot of heat.
“The top two guys and some others tonight, were in the finals of all three events. There was some fatigue in there. It's a credit to those two guys that they were able to stand up and persevere and compete like they did. Both of them hit key dives and both showed a little fatigue. Colin was having trouble ripping his entries. His arms were pretty waxed, but he persevered and came up big.”
Zeng also had impressive showings in the 3-meter and 1-meter diving events, earning second and fourth place. He claimed another spot in the Tennessee record books on the 3-meter springboard posting a score of 495.15. Zeng’s efforts earned him CSCAA Diver of the Meet.
"This week he showed his consistency and his competitive spirit to step up on all three boards and finish in the top four in each event,” Parrington said. “He got a little better with each event. It was pretty cool to get a men's platform champion in this building where my first Tennessee diver won his first title.”
This event was bittersweet as it marked the conclusion of five Vols’ careers. Liam Stone, Peter John Stevens, Sam McHugh, Ryan Coetzee, and Austin Hirstein all saw their collegiate careers come to an end.
Juniors Joey Reilman and Kyle DeCoursey and sophomore Alec Connolly also competed for the Vols and will be looking to build on this year’s success for next year’s squad.
Tennessee finished the meet as the 11th-best team with a total of 123 points, an improvement over last year’s 20th-place finish. Head coach Matt Kredich was pleased with the Vols’ efforts.
"Starting exactly one year ago, these guys decided that 20th was not enough,” Kredich said. “They really took their work and their mindset to a new level. This meet really exemplified that mindset. We fought and scrapped for every point. There weren't many instances when the points came in bunches. We never stopped fighting. I'm really proud of our diving program.
“Colin (Zeng) and Liam (Stone) were outstanding. I'm really proud of our senior class. We had a huge contribution from our seniors. They really wanted to leave a legacy. I'm really impressed where they have brought us. We have some juniors, sophomores and freshmen ready to take the mantle and move us up.”