ROSEMONT, Ill. (Purdue Sports) — Sweeping the NCAA and Big Ten titles on 3-meter coupled with winning silver on 1-meter at the national championship meet has earned Purdue's Steele Johnson his third career Big Ten Diver of the Year honor.
Johnson finished in the top 10 of all three diving events at the 2018 NCAA Championships. He accounted for 44 of Purdue's 54 team points, helping the Boilermakers finish 19th. He ranked third in scoring among all divers and first among the Big Ten's representatives.
Winning on 3-meter with a clutch final-round dive, which he changed at the last minute to a more-difficult 4 ½ somersault tuck, made Johnson a five-time NCAA champion. He repeated on 3-meter, becoming the first man to do so since Stanford's Kristian Ipsen in 2012 and 2013.
Johnson was also the NCAA and Big Ten Diver of the Year in 2015 and 2017, winning a pair of national titles both years. Since the Big Ten Diver of the Year award was established in 1987, he's just the fourth student-athlete to win it three times. Minnesota's P.J. Bogart (1993-96) is the only four-time winner. Other three-time winners include Indiana's Mike Collier (1997-99) as well as Johnson's friend and fellow Boilermaker David Boudia (2009-11).
Johnson is now just one NCAA title shy of Boudia's six. Since platform diving was added to NCAAs in 1990, Texas' Troy Dumais (seven) is the only other man to win at least five national titles.
This year, Johnson became the first Big Ten diver since Boudia in 2011 to win both the conference and national titles on 3-meter in the same year. Both men demonstrated their versatility by winning NCAA and Big Ten titles in both springboard events and the platform during their careers. They remain the only two to accomplish that feat at NCAAs.
Johnson entered the final round of the 3-meter competition at NCAAs nine points behind the leader, Tennessee's Colin Zeng. Purdue head diving coach Adam Soldati explained to Johnson that his only realistic chance to win was to change his final dive from a 3 ½ somersault pike to 4 ½ somersault tuck, which was accompanied by a boost in degree of difficulty from 3.1 to 3.8. Changing a dive during the competition is not allowed internationally, but it is at NCAA meets. Johnson earned all 8s and 9s on the more difficult 4 ½ somersault dive, producing a score of 96.9 that ranked as the best among all 48 dives performed in the eight-man championship final.
Johnson said that he also changed his final dive to the 4 ½ somersault in the 3-meter championship final at Big Tens in 2017. But even with a perfect dive that earned six of a possible seven 10s for a score of 114, it was only enough for a bronze that night. Despite recent struggles with the 4 ½ since returning from a foot injury that had sidelined him from November through January, he said he was confident about the change on the big stage of NCAAs.
Johnson has finished among the top two in seven of his nine career events at the national championship meet. He was the runner-up (10th overall) to teammate Brandon Loschiavo in the platform consolation final to close out NCAAs this year.
Dating back to Steven LoBue sharing Big Ten Diver of the Year honors in 2006, Boilermakers have won seven of the last 13 men's awards.