The Tennessee men and women divers competed in front of their home crowd for the last time this season as the Zone B Diving Championships came to a close on Wednesday evening.
After the dust settled, the decision was final: Tennessee will be represented by three divers at the NCAA Diving Championships. Those divers are junior Rachel Rubadue for the women and senior Liam Stone and redshirt junior Zhipeng (Colin) Zeng for the men.
The last day of competition was for the men’s and women’s platform events. The men’s preliminaries kicked off at 10 a.m. Tennessee had three competitors in a field of 20, but only seven could advance.
Freshman Will Hallam wrapped up his first season with a ninth-place finish posting a score of 634.20. Keegan Richardson finished his freshman campaign with a score of 596.10, earning him the 11th spot in the final standings. Both athletes gained invaluable experience in the event and will likely look to build upon this year for the future.
Perhaps no one had a bigger week for themselves than Zhipeng (Colin) Zeng. After already posting dominant performances in the 1-meter and 3-meter diving events, Zeng was not yet satisfied, as he turned in a record-breaking performance on the final day.
In the preliminaries, Zeng put up a score of 483.25, including a tally of 91.80 on his third dive, but this was only a sample of things to come. In the final round, Zeng recorded the first 500-point game in Vols history. This round consisted of three jaw-dropping 90-point dives with scores of 90.00, 97.35, and 98.60.
After the final scores were added up, Zeng finished with 590.35, giving him 990.40 for the day. The next closest diver finished nearly 200 points behind him.
Diving Coach Dave Parrington was very positive about Zeng’s impressive performance, but believed that he could have had an even higher score.
"There are very good divers that will dive their entire careers and not get one 10,” Parrington said. “Today, we saw eight or nine out of him during the course of three different dives. That in and of itself is a very special thing. He was on his game, but there were still a few points that were left on the board so to speak, little things that we need to tune up before the NCAA championships, and then we'll see what happens."
The women’s action began at 2:45 p.m. with the women’s preliminaries. Tennessee had five women competing in a field of 22 competitors, but only nine could move on.
Freshman Lily Schneider and juniors Emily Pelletier and Sean Meyers failed to make it to the finals, wrapping up their seasons, respectively. Ana Celaya Hernandez concluded her freshman campaign with a score of 423.85 giving her 15th place.
Junior Rachel Rubadue continued her impressive week with a score of 590.35, putting her in first place and likely giving her a confidence boost as she heads into the NCAA Diving Championships.
"I think (Rubadue) learned a lot from her sophomore year, not being quite where she was during her freshman year,” Parrington said. “We certainly sat around shortly after NCAAs last year and talked about some improvements that I felt she needed to make physically a little bit and in her training.
"This year, she's been more focused throughout the year, she's certainly gotten physically stronger, that's been a huge part of what's going on. That gives you a lot more confidence in what you can do on the boards and in the air. Having some good results based on that has improved her confidence."
The NCAA women’s championships take place next week, March 14 through 17, in Columbus, Ohio. The men will travel to Minneapolis, Minnesota, on March 24 through 27 to compete in the men’s championships.