MINNEAPOLIS - Purdue’s Steele Johnson won silver as an All-American in 1-meter diving Thursday, posting his sixth career top-two finish at the NCAA Championships.
It took an impressive finish by Indiana’s Michael Hixon to deny Johnson his third career NCAA title on 1-meter. Johnson had the lead entering round five, but Hixon closed with scores of 81.6 and 91.8 to win the Hoosiers’ first national title in a men’s diving event since 1990. Hixon finished with a list score of 464.4 to Johnson’s 443.85.
The two Olympians are friends and have begun training together recently as part of the early stages of a potential synchronized 3-meter partnership.
Joe Cifelli qualified for the 1-meter consolation final Thursday, earning honorable mention All-America accolades via his 16th place overall finish. The junior earned All-America honors for the third year in a row. He posted a list score of 353.85 in the prelim to advance via a 13th-place finish among a field of 44 divers.
Johnson and Cifelli combined to account for 18 team points, putting the Boilermakers in 19th place after the first full day of action at the national championship meet. Both student-athletes will compete again Friday on 3-meter.
Johnson improved on his prelim score (396.75) by 47 points in the final, earning scores over 70 points on five of his six dives. His list-high score of 79.05 in round four moved him into the lead. But Hixon outscored Johnson by 14.1 in round five to leapfrog a pair of divers and take the lead. Hixon also swept the springboard events at NCAAs as a freshman for Texas in 2014. Johnson had bested him on 1-meter to win NCAA titles in both 2015 and 2017, but Hixon was victorious in the event at Big Tens in 2015, 2017 and 2018.
As a seven-time All-American, Johnson has never finished lower than ninth in an event at the national championship meet. Along with his four career NCAA titles, had also previously won silver on platform in 2017.
Cifelli had three straight scores in the 60s to put himself in position to advance past the prelim. But he was unable to overcome a pair of sub-40 scores in the consolation final.
Friday, Johnson will aim to become the first man to repeat as the NCAA champion on 3-meter since Olympian Kristian Ipsen (Stanford) in 2012 and 2013.
Marat Amaltdinov is also scheduled to compete Friday in the 100 breaststroke, making his third career appearance at NCAAs. Swimming prelims begin at 11 a.m. ET, diving prelims at 1:15 p.m. and the finals session is set for 7 p.m.
2018 NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS
March 21 to 24 / Minneapolis
Purdue’s Thursday Results
Steele Johnson, 443.85 – 2nd in Championship Final (17 Points); ALL-AMERICA
Joe Cifelli, 353.85 (Prelim Score) – 8th in Consolation Final (1 Point); H.M. ALL-AMERICA