WATERFORD – Joe Zendejas was on the outside looking in entering the finals of the Oakland County diving championship.
The Clarkston senior was narrowly in third place with three dives to go, looking up at a pair divers from the strong diving program at South Lyon.
However, Zendejas didn’t let that get to him, as he made up a nearly 20-point deficit over the next three dives to win the 2014 county title with a score of 371.25.
“Joe has a lot of skills and abilities and I told him that he could win as long as he stayed focused and he did a good job of that,” Clarkston diving coach Pat McGinty said. “He has some things to work on, but he made some good gains (Friday).”
Zendejas had a score of 259.25 entering the finals, while South Lyon’s Ethan Schmidt stood in the lead at 278.70. Schmidt’s teammate, Matt Meadows, was in second with 263.15, while Troy’s David Thiede was a close fourth at 257.55.
Zendejas had the luxury of starting off each round and setting the bar for his competitors. He did so right away, scoring a 40.3 on his first of three dives and followed that up with a 41.80 on his next dive.
“This is the best he’s done this season, but it has been a natural progression for him,” McGinty said. “He is adding harder dives to his list and he has a good understanding of what are the right dives for him and which dives he still needs to work on.”
As Zendejas flourished, the competition didn’t quite hit their marks. Schmidt scored just an 18.40 in his second dive, which opened the door for Zendejas to take the lead, 341.33-332.80 entering the final dive.
After posting two impressive dives, Zendejas admittedly didn’t finish on his strongest note, scoring a 29.90, which was nearly much worse.
“I almost failed it,” Zendejas said of his final dive. “I had a little extra rotation on the twist. It was a one-and-a-half double twist that was almost a two-and-a-quarter twists. I knew it would be close after that. It wasn’t my best dive.”
Schmidt took the board needing a 38.45 to match Zendejas’ total score. The junior for South Lyon ended up with a 37.95, which gave Zendejas the title by just half a point.
“I knew a lot of the divers were really good, so I thought it might be a close competition, which it was,” Zendejas said.
Schmidt’s final score was 370.75. Thiede ended up in third with 354.75 while Meadows placed fourth with 349.7.5.
Oxford took fifth and sixth behind Jared Tasch (329.85) and Marco Campagiorni (324.00) while Seaholm’s Sebastian Fay placed seventh (302.95) and South Lyon’s Levi Oxner finished eighth (300.70).
Zendejas will look to take Friday’s win and use it as a springboard to more success over the next month. A defending regional and conference champion, Zendejas will look to improve on his 15th-place finish at last year’s Division 1 state finals.
“He’s won the regionals the last two years, so we know he will do well there. He has won the league meet the last three years, so we expect some success going forward,” McGinty said of Zendejas. “The competition is going to get tougher and tougher as we move forward, but I think he will be ready for it.”