Zhang Becomes First ISU Diver To Advance To NCAA Championships
March 13, 2014
COLUMBUS, Ohio - It was a historic day for the Illinois State swimming and diving program Thursday, as junior Wenting Zhang became the first diver in school history to advance to the NCAA Championships with her performance in NCAA Zone C Diving Qualifier hosted by Ohio State at the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion.
Zhang automatically qualified for the NCAA Championships, which will be held March 20-22 in Minneapolis, Minn., with her second-place score of 607.40 in the 1-meter competition. The Shenzhen, China, native finished behind Purdue's Casey Matthews, who bested the field of 45 divers with a score of 616.20, and finished ahead of Missouri Valley Conference rival Kaixuan Zhang of Southern Illinois in third place, who posted a score 605.10. The trio automatically qualified for the NCAA Championships with their top-three finishes.
"Wendy has had a fantastic year and this accomplishment only adds to her history-making season," diving coach Phil Hoffman said. "It's a great honor for her to represent the program and Illinois State at the NCAA Championships next weekend. This is one of those once in a lifetime opportunities for her, especially because of how hard it is to advance in the diving competition."
The divers with the top 18 scores from the preliminary round advanced to the finals of the 1-meter competiton. Zhang sat in second place after the prelims with a score of 296.55 and bested that with a score of 310.85 in the finals to finish with her total of 607.40. Just two weeks ago, the two-time MVC Diver of the Year and three-time All-MVC First Team selection topped her previous career-bests and broke her own school diving records with scores of 343.00 (1-meter) and 373.20 (3-meter) at the 2014 Missouri Valley Conference Championship to help the Redbirds finish in second place overall.
By virtue of her qualification for the NCAA Championship in the 1-meter competition, Zhang will also be eligible to compete in the 3-meter competition. She will compete in the 3-meter competition at the NCAA Zone C Diving Qualifier Friday, with hopes of securing another top finish.
"I've really enjoyed working with Wendy for the past three years and she helped me fulfill one of my coaching goals today of having a diver compete at the NCAA Championships," Hoffman stated. "It certainly happened a lot quicker than I thought it would, but Wendy is a special athlete and has represented herself and Illinois State in the highest manner."
Continued live scoring of the Zone C meet can be found at DiveMeets.com on Friday once the completion begins.
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