After flirting with second place, Tennessee senior Brent Sterling ended up in fourth in the 1-meter springboard at the NCAA Zone B Diving Championships on Monday.
“I had some really good dives and some bad dives,” he said after his competition at the Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center. “It wasn’t really a consistent performance. I was hoping to get top three and I was a little short of that.”
Sterling’s performance came on the first of three days of competition for divers from the Southeast trying to qualify for the NCAA championships later this month in Indianapolis.
Sterling finished with 671.65 points over 12 dives, behind winner and 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Nick McCrory of Duke (820.80). Fellow Tennessee senior Jordan Mauney finished 14th (575.55).
Tennessee diving coach Dave Parrington was pleased that Mauney qualified for his first Zone final, and that Sterling did well on four of his six final dives.
“Brent did a great job most of the day,” he said. “He missed two crucial dives there in the final that keeps him out of the top two.”
In the other Monday final — the women’s 3-meter — senior Jodie McGroarty scored 665.80 points over 12 dives to become the only Tennessee diver so far to qualify for the NCAAs. She finished in third place, behind winner Laura Ryan of Georgia (702.50).
Tori Lamp (637.05) finished eighth, while freshman Samantha Lera also reached the finals before coming in 17th (548.65).
While Monday’s performance brought mixed emotions for Sterling, the Central High graduate’s Tennessee career overall has been pleasing. He has gone from walking on the team to standing on the awards podium with a fourth in the 1-meter at the SEC championships two weeks ago.
“I’ve gotten better every year,” he said. “A lot of divers, you see them come to college and they like really plateau. I’ve been really happy.”
He thinks the improvement has been due in part to the fact that he rarely takes off from training.
Sterling also rarely takes off from studying during the other waking hours. He has a 3.98 grade point average in biochemistry.
He also has a pre-med concentration in his studies, but today his mental focus will be on his best event — the 3-meter.
“It would be really nice if I could get a top three,” he said.
Regardless, he already has quite a story to tell, according to his coach.
“He came in as a walk-on not very well recruited,” Parrington said.”It would be good to cap it off with another qualification for the NCAAs.”
John Shearer is a freelance contributor.