After a strong showing during day one of the zone B diving championships, the Tennessee diving team looked to continue its positive momentum into day two of the competition.
On day two, divers Liam Stone, Colin Zeng and Rachel Rubadue advanced to the NCAA finals in the 3-meter springboard event and the 1-meter springboard event, respectively.
Action kicked off at 11 a.m. at the Allen Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center on Tuesday, with 33 men participating in the 1-meter preliminaries. Only the top 18 out of this large field would advance to the finals and a chance at the NCAA finals in Minnesota, so the pressure was on for Tennessee’s men.
Zeng, one of the stalwart members of the Tennessee squad, had yet another strong day in the preliminaries, taking first place with a 409.20, averaging an unmatched 68.20 per round. Stone was not far behind Zeng, placing sixth with a score of 325.20 to solidify his spot in the finals.
Freshman Will Hallam placed 13th, posting a strong 305.45 score, and junior Nick Rusek was able to squeak into 18th place, finishing with a score of 281.15, just 1.15 points above 19th place.
With four divers in the final field of 18, the men’s diving squad had a great opportunity to lock down more NCAA finals spots since the top six performers in the finals were able to advance.
Zheng once again dominated, placing first with plenty of room to spare. He notched a final score of 794.60, which led to a 58.9-point cushion between his top spot and second place. The other usual suspect, Stone, punched his ticket in fifth place with a score of 685.65.
Hallam (11th) and Rusek (14th), despite giving valiant efforts, did not finish within the top six and thus were not able to advance to the finals.
“For all of those that have made the top 12 so far who haven’t qualified for the meet,” Parrington said, “The message has been: You’re still in the meet. You still have a shot to get to the NCAAs.”
Next were the women, fighting for the opportunity to advance to the NCAA finals in the 3-meter springboards.
Once again, a large field of competitors was cut down as 37 entered the preliminaries and only 18 advanced to the finals. From there, the top seven scorers would go on to the NCAA finals in Columbus, Ohio.
Rubadue, who had already qualified for the 1-meter field at the finals, felt very confident about her chances at gaining a spot in the 3-meter springboard event.
“It was pretty hard today,” Rubadue said, “with all the fatigue from yesterday. So today was kind of a challenge, but I really tried hard to just get up and do what I know how to do. I’m happy with how I finished.”
Headed into the sixth and final round of preliminary dives, Rubadue and fellow Tennessee diver Ana Celaya Hernandez were solidly placed in the top 18. They just needed to finish relatively strongly to secure their spots in the zone finals.
Rubadue carded an admirable 53.75 in her final dive to give her a total score of 314.25 and finish the preliminaries in 6th, and Hernandez had her best dive of the day, finishing with 290.10 points and turning in a 12th-place finish in the preliminary round.
With a shot at gaining her second finals event spot, Rubadue put together six very solid dives, leading to a 6th-place finish and stamping her name for the 3-meter springboard event in Columbus.
Hernandez, on the other hand, started out a little bit slow in the final round, getting high enough scores to stick around eighth place for a bit but then plummeting down the rankings when other divers hit the boards. A 60-point dive in the fourth round, gave her some momentum, though, and she came within just 10 points of seventh place.
Despite her valiant effort, Hernandez fell short of the last qualifiers, coming in at No. 9 with a final score of 589.00.
Rubadue has been to two NCAA Championships already and is hungry to succeed in her third. The fact that the finals are in her hometown of Columbus gives her an extra level of confidence, as well.
“I’m really excited,” Rubadue said, “It’s really cool. I’m just really looking forward to it. It’ll be great.”
The third and final day of the Zone B Diving Championships is slated to begin at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, with both men’s and women’s divers participating in the platform event.