Nevada's Zheng Wins NCAA Title In 1-Meter Dive
Courtesy of Nevada Athletics
ATLANTA – Sophomore diver Sharae Zheng made history on Thursday, winning the 1-meter springboard title at the NCAA Championships to become the first national champion in Nevada’s diving history. Zheng tallied 344.95 points in the finals at the McAuley Aquatic Center to become the University of Nevada’s ninth all-time individual national champion.
The native of Chengdu, China, who joined the Wolf Pack over winter break, sat in third after prelims with a score of 315.35 to advance to the finals. Zheng then posted a remarkable finals score of 344.95 to best runner-up Eloise Belanger of UCLA and third-place finisher Pei Lin of Miami (Ohio).
Zheng is the University of Nevada’s first individual national champion in 14 years. The 5-foot-1 diver is also Nevada’s fourth national champion in Wolf Pack swimming and diving history and the ninth national champion in the athletic department’s history.
“To compete and win at this level and adjust to the culture in such a short amount of time is really remarkable,” said diving coach Jian Li You, who has been named MW Diving Coach of the Year in four straight seasons. “She’s worked very hard and has done a wonderful job, and I’m so happy and proud of her. I’m happy with all three of our divers’ performances today, too.”
Zheng has shined since joining Nevada over winter break, placing first in four-of-five regular season dives prior to winning the 1-meter and 3-meter titles at the Mountain West Championships. Zheng went on to win the 3-meter springboard title and place runner-up on the 1-meter board at the NCAA Zone E Regional to advance to NCAAs.
With the top finals score by nearly nine points, Zheng dazzled on the 1-meter springboard at the NCAA Championships to become Jian Li You’s first national champion.
Senior Krysta Palmer, a two-time Mountain West Diver of the Year, advanced to the 1-meter springboard ‘B’ finals and placed ninth overall to earn All-American honors for the second straight season. Palmer won the ‘B” finals by one-tenth with a finals score of 310.70, placing ninth overall. The Carson City native scored 297.55 in the prelims.
Freshman Zoe Lei also advanced to NCAAs on the 1-meter springboard. The Macau, China, native placed 46th overall with a prelim score of 224.75. Nevada was the only team in the nation with three competitors in 1-meter diving at the NCAA Championships.
Senior Yawen Li also competed in the 200-yard IM for the Wolf Pack. The three-time All-Mountain West selection placed 50th with a time of 2:00.30.
Three student-athletes will compete for Nevada on Friday at NCAAs. Palmer and Zheng will compete in 3-meter diving, while Li will swim in the 400-yard IM. Prelims will begin at 7 a.m. PT, diving trails at 9:15 and finals will start at 3 p.m.
Nevada now has 29 team points, siting in 17th place on the team leaderboard. Zheng won 20 points for the Wolf Pack with her title while Palmer tallied nine points. Nevada currently leads the field among non-power five teams, while the Pack is the lone Mountain West team with points. With two days remaining, Nevada has already eclipsed its point total from last season as the Wolf Pack placed 33rd with 16 points at the 2015 NCAA Championships.
“For us as a program to be able to recruit, coach and compete at this level is incredibly exciting,” said head coach Neil Harper. “Congratulations to Jian Li and to Sharae. It was fun watching this unfold and watching Sharae perform so well under pressure. We’re excited to share this accomplishment with our Wolf Pack family back home.”