In an illustrious career that includes an Olympic bronze medal and 11 All-American selections, McCrory, a senior, learned to conquer competitions big and small. Saturday the Olympic bronze medalist found himself in unchartered territory: forced to come from behind in pursuit of his fourth NCAA platform title.
Needing 92.10 points on his final dive to surpass sophomore Rafael Quintero of Arizona, McCrory executed his most difficult dive to near-perfection. When he resurfaced after his back two-and-a-half somersault with two-and-a-half twists, McCrory saw only 9s and a 10s at the judges' table.
His total: 94.50.
Winning the national championship by a mere 2.45 points, McCrory became the first four-time national champion on the platform in NCAA history.
“Even though he was down a fairly large margin and had to put up a big dive on the last one, everybody knew he was capable of doing it,” head coach Dan Colella said. “I was standing amongst the Arizona athletes and coaches, and they were all standing there with a look of anticipation with Nick as the last diver. When he ripped the dive, you could hear the air come out of them.”
McCrory's first three national championships did not come in such dramatic fashion. The closest any competitor had come to besting McCrory was when Stanford's Kristian Ipsen, a junior, finished a full 43 points behind him at the 2013 NCAA Championships.
As he approached the platform for the final time in his collegiate career, McCrory calculated the score he would need to win. After taking his leap of faith, the four-time national champion was unsure he had hit his mark.
"To be honest I didn't think I got it when I hit the water," McCrory said. "I was surprised by the scoreboard. I saw my dive and I guess it was better than I thought.”
After posting the top score in the preliminary round with a season-best 480.35 points, the Olympian faltered on his third and fourth dives in the final round and found himself in fifth place with two rounds left. McCrory moved up the scoreboard to fourth place after his fifth dive—a back two-and-a-half somersault.
Regaining the form that had won him his first three national championships on his final dive, McCrory etched his name—as well as Duke's—into the NCAA record books.
“I’m just really proud for my school,” McCrory said. “They’ve done so much to support me and get me here and keep me going. I’m really happy to be representing Duke.”
McCrory also earned bronze on the 1-meter board on Thursday. Earning a total of 412.15 points over six dives, the Blue Devil took third behind Texas' Michael Hixon and Ipsen, who tallied 443.50 and 436.55 points, respectively.
Struggling with his third dive on the 3-meter board in the preliminary round, McCrory hit the water with his hands and feet at nearly the same time. With little chance of making finals after a score of 4.65 points on the dive, the senior withdrew from the event for precautionary measures.
“He dove solidly on the 1-meter and would have like to have done a little better than he did, but it was still a great performance,” Colella said. “He was inspired to do a great job the next day, but halfway through the competition, we have having issues with his knee. With any kind of injury to the knee, they made the right decision to withdraw, especially because he came back the next day and defended his national title and won the platform.”On the swimming side, senior Hunter Knight competed in two events in his first NCAA Championships. In the 100-yard breaststroke on Friday, the senior turned in a time of 53.98 seconds to take 33rd place. Knight placed 37th in the 200-yard breaststroke the next day, touching the wall at 1:57.90.
“For him it is bittersweet,” Colella said. “To make it to the NCAA Championships is quite a feat in itself. We would have loved to have seen him come away with best times or All-American status, but we are incredibly proud of him. We are proud of both the athletes and we are going to miss them terribly.”