Olympians Hixon, Johnson first and second on 1-meter at Winter Nationals to qualify for World Championships

By USA Diving | Dec. 19, 2016, 9:10 p.m. (ET)

                COLUMBUS, Ohio – A pair of 2016 Olympic silver medalists finished first and second on 1-meter Monday at the USA Diving Winter National Championships to qualify for next summer’s FINA World Championships. Michael Hixon (Amherst, Mass./Bloomington, Ind.) won gold and Steele Johnson (Carmel, Ind./West Lafayette, Ind.) finished second to qualify for worlds.  
                Hixon, who won bronze on 1-meter at the 2015 World Championships, finished with 825.40 points over two lists of dives to win his second national title on the event and his first since 2011. He entered the finals in second place after Friday’s preliminaries and took the lead after scoring 72 points on his second-round reverse 1 ½ with 2 ½ twists in the finals. He scored 72 or more points on three other dives, including 79.90 on his inward 2 ½ pike in the last round.
                “This was a great competition. You really can’t miss. You have to be on your game the entire night. It was a lot of fun,” Hixon said. “I knew it was going to be a fight, and I just needed to stay in it one dive at a time. I missed my reverse twister a little bit in the prelims and went 72 in the finals. It’s a good meet under my belt and it’s nice to be back diving again.”
                Johnson started the night in fourth place after Friday’s preliminaries but finished second with 805.35 points after scoring 72 points or more on four of six dives in the finals. Johnson’s previous best finish on 1-meter at a U.S. nationals was 10th at the 2014 Winter National Championships, although he did win the 2015 NCAA title on 1-meter.
                “This was my first (U.S.) competition back from Rio. I’ve been doing some college dual meets and for me, that’s been really helpful to get me back in a springboard mode because I haven’t done springboard for a year and a half,” Johnson said. “I’m just kind of relearning the ropes, and being able to have those meets prepare me for this one was really good.”
                Colin Zeng, an Ohio State diver from China, finished third with 801.55 points but international divers are considered exhibition divers and cannot displace a U.S. athlete from receiving a medal or advancing to the next round so 2016 Olympian Sam Dorman (Tempe, Ariz./Miami, Fla.) was awarded the bronze medal after finishing with 780 points. Dorman led after the preliminaries but had only one dive score more than 70 points to allow others to overtake him.
                Also on Monday, Maria Coburn (Round Rock, Texas) sits atop the women’s 3-meter standings after the semifinals. Zeng leads after the men’s 10-meter semifinals, with David Dinsmore (New Albany, Ohio/Miami, Fla.) as the top American qualifier in second place.
                A day after winning the women’s 1-meter title, Coburn scored 550.30 points on her two lists of women’s 3-meter dives in the preliminaries and semifinals to qualify for the finals in first place. Brooke Schultz (Fayetteville, Ark.), the 1-meter bronze medalist, heads into the 3-meter finals in second place with 537.00 points, and Hailey Hernandez (Southlake, Texas) is third at 527.15.
                Zeng leads the 10-meter field with 933.00 points. Dinsmore is in second place, but first among Americans, and enters Wednesday’s final with 882.45 points. Christopher Law (San Antonio, Texas/Columbus, Ohio) is third at 734.20 points.  
                The USA Diving Winter National Championships continue through Wednesday, December 21. Tuesday’s competition begins at 4:30 p.m. and features finals in women’s 10-meter, men’s 3-meter and mixed synchronized diving.