By Jim Bransfield
MIDDLETOWN >> Hand High freshman sensation Class M champion Teddy Zeng hit a brilliant eleventh dive to come from behind and nip New Canaan’s Class L champion Bobby Ross and win the State Open diving championship at the Baldwin-Parmelee pool at Middletown High School Thursday evening.
“Teddy has the confidence and experience to handle situations like that,” said Hand coach Jennifer Lyman. “He has the composure to handle his emotions and just work on the task at hand.”
Ross hit a spectacular 10th dive, getting scores of eight and half to 10 — 10 is perfect — to take a slim lead over Zeng. But on his final dive, Zeng got scores from eight and half to nine and a half on the five judges’ cards to win.
“I don’t think about things like that,” said Zeng, who moved to the United States from China last year. “I just thought about how I could do my last dive better.”
Middletown star diver Dan Kinney, the runner-up in Class L to Ross, didn’t have a good night. Kinney came in seeded second, but fell to seventh.
“I am very disappointed,” he said. “I really wanted this. But I blew my second dive, a dive I’ve never blown before. That dive is my bread-and-butter dive and after that, I couldn’t get in the right mindset.”
Kinney opened the night with a spectacular dive, getting three scores of nine from the judges. But he couldn’t maintain the momentum on his next two dives. While he recovered and moved into fifth place after eight dives and had two good dives for Nos. 10 and 11, his earlier dives were too much to overcome and other divers passed him.
“When I got here today, I thought Dan was tense, and I’ve never seen him tense in four years,” said MHS diving coach Matt Quinn. “But I tried to tell him — in other words — that diving is like pitching. The best of pitchers have bad days and so do divers. This was one of those and it turned out not to be the kind of night we were looking for.”
Middletown’s Monica Marcello finished in 11th place and Adam Gauthier was 15th. All three finishes give Middletown points in the State Open standings which concludes with swimming on Saturday at Yale.
“This wasn’t my best night,” said Marcello, who along with Kinney is going to dive at UConn. “It wasn’t my worst either, but it was below average. I hoped to do better.”
Gauthier, the No. 3 diver on the team, had a good meet.
“I thought Adam had a career day,” said Quinn. “His score [368.95 points; 15th place] ranks him in the top four scorers of all time here at Middletown. Dan, Monica and Adam are three of the top four scorers in school history.”
“I thought I was consistent all day,” said Gauthier, who never got lower than a five from a judge and had a high of eight on all his dives.
Xavier’s Liam Barnes finished his high school career with a 16th place finish with 359.25 points.
“He dived consistently,” said Xavier diving coach Devon O’Nalty. “He moved up a place in the seedings after the LL finals [he was seventh in LL] so we’re pleased.”
The top 10 finishers were 1. Zeng, 539.50, 2. Ross, 524.60, 3. Jeff Asselin of Greenwich, 439.80, 4. Robert Christensen, Darien, 436, 5. Sam Hoyt, Glastonbury, 431.35, 6. Andrew Bologna, Greenwich, 426.10, 7. Kinney, 404.60, 8. Peter Gallino, Sacred Heart, 399.95, 9. Cameron Rhind, New Canaan, 395.20, 10. Justin Sodokoff, Greenwich, 394.