For the past three years, Steele Johnson has had a stress fracture in his right foot, one that should have been surgically repaired. The Purdue diver resisted, because he didn’t want to put his career on hold for six to eight months while he recovered.
Johnson took a 12-week break over the winter, resumed training eight weeks ago and won his fifth NCAA title Friday. He scored 499.35 points to earn his second consecutive championship on the 3-meter board, finishing ahead of Tennessee’s Colin Zeng (495.15) and Indiana’s Michael Hixon (481.90). Johnson also won 1-meter titles in 2015 and 2017 and the platform championship in 2015.
“The bone is actually regrowing, which is pretty miraculous,’’ said Johnson, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist in men’s synchronized platform diving with David Boudia. “I’m still able to walk, I’m still able to dive, and I don’t have any pain. You’ve got to keep going.’’
Johnson, a junior, said he had low expectations coming into the meet. During the three-month break, he was not able to walk or put any pressure on the foot to allow it to heal, but he won the 3-meter title at the Big Ten championships after only four weeks of training.
Gophers senior Conner McHugh finished sixth in the 100-yard breaststroke Friday in a time of 51.48 seconds. He will compete Saturday in the 200 breaststroke in his final college race.
“To get in the A final was definitely the goal coming into my senior year,’’ he said. “I’m looking forward to finishing off my collegiate career as strong as I can.’’
Nick Yang finished 17th in 3-meter diving, and another Gophers junior, Alan Le-Blang, was 46th. The Gophers also finished 14th in the 200 medley relay with a time of 1:24.89.
Back at ya
Townley Haas has been trying to break the 1:30 barrier in the 200 freestyle since he was a freshman. The Texas junior was distressed when Indiana’s Blake Pieroni got there before he did, but Haas got the last word Friday.
Pieroni clocked a U.S. and NCAA record of 1:29.63 Wednesday on the leadoff leg of the 800 free relay. Haas lowered that mark to 1:29.50 on Friday to win the 200 free.
“It kind of hit me hard,’’ Haas said of Pieroni’s record. “To be able to come back a couple of days later, it means everything.’’