On Saturday night, Nick McCrory had the steak dinner he was looking forward to. Not even bothering to change out of his sweats, he dined until midnight and “it was everything he hoped for it to be.”
But the steak was just the icing on the cake on a weekend in which McCrory became a third-time national champion on the platform. He is now a nine-time All-American across all three diving disciplines and has advanced to every event final he has competed in at the NCAA championships, leading Duke to a 17th place finish—the highest in McCrory’s time with the Blue Devils.
McCrory opted out of his 2011-2012 campaign in order to train for and compete in the London Olympics, where he won a bronze in synchronized platform diving with his partner, Purdue’s David Boudia. His synchronized partner was also the favorite to win the platform title in the 2010 collegiate season, when McCrory beat him out for his first title.
“After competing in the Olympics, which is the biggest stage you can compete in in our sport, you learn how to handle that kind of pressure and you can apply it to any type of competition,” McCrory said. “You learn to control your nerves, perform under pressure and take that pressure off of yourself.”
He returned to the Blue Devil squad this season as a junior and wasted no time reasserting himself back on the college scene. He accumulated three more ACC titles this season and became the most decorated diver in ACC history with seven event crowns.
Known primarily as a platform specialist, McCrory made it a goal to focus some of his energy towards becoming more successful on the 1- and 3-meter springboard events, which require a different skill set because it is hard to find consistency on the springboard.
“Last year I did springboard one day a week because I was still very focused on the platform leading up to London,” McCrory said. “This year I learned some new dives and improved my overall consistency on the springboard. The competition could have gone better, but I think it showed the improvement I have been making and it looks promising. I am not going to give up platform because it was always my favorite event and what I was most naturally talented at. You’re event kind of picks you in diving.”
McCrory has already set aside time this summer for strengthening his consistency and competition on the springboard by adding to his already difficult set list. McCrory finished second in the 3-meter springboard competition at the NCAAs after holding a lead following the first four of his six dives.
“The first four dives that he did [on the 3-meter springboard] were considerably ahead of the field, and they were some of the hardest dives being done in the world,” said Duke head coach Drew Johansen, who also coached the American divers at the 2012 Olympics. “And he did them at a really high level. The last two, I’m sure he would like to have over and might have gotten a different result. He did the hardest list of dives that was being done on the 3-meter springboard at the NCAA.”
He also finished second in the 1-meter springboard, losing to a familiar foe in both springboard competitions. Sophomore Kristian Ipsen of Stanford was the 2011 3-meter champion and 1-meter runner-up, and eked past McCrory to finish with two titles this season. Ipsen and McCrory were teammates on the 2012 Olympic team where Ipsen collected a bronze medal in synchronized 3-meter with partner Troy Dumais.
“[Ipsen] is a great competitor. We go way back, we are really good friends, and we actually roomed together at the Olympics,” McCrory said. “Our first competition against each other was actually in Indianapolis at that pool in 2001 when I was 9 and he was 8. So we have been competing against each other for quite a while, since we were kids. But as we got more specialized, we separated. Its been interesting because for our national careers, he was a springboard diver and I was a platform diver, so we never really competed against each other. The NCAAs is now forcing us to, and it’s friendly competition but both of us want to win.”
Next year the two will likely get another round of competition in all three disciplines, with Ipsen wanting to dethrone the three-time champ and McCrory gunning for a title on the springboard.
“We are going to try and learn at least one if not two more dives this summer so that when he goes back, he will have a more difficult list and that will just put him that much ahead of the field next year,” Johansen said.