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Alex Zhang wins his first Suffolk diving championship

Alex Zhang of Harborfields won the Suffolk boys diving championship at Hauppauge on Thursday Credit: Newsday / Owen O’Brien

Alex Zhang didn’t have many miscalculations at the Suffolk boys diving championships Thursday. But when he made one, it caught the attention of everybody in the pool.

Luckily, the slip-up didn’t mean anything.

During an open board practice session following the competitors’ eighth dives, Zhang attempted a dive, landed on his back in the pool and created a loud sound at Hauppauge.

“I don’t even know what happened to be honest,” Zhang said with a laugh. “I kind of just fell off the board and I tried to save it. But that didn’t work.”

That would be the only mistake for the Harborfields freshman Thursday, who exited the pool after his 11th dive as the Suffolk boys diving champion, posting a score of 494.95.

“This is better than I imagined,” said Zhang, of the Huntington/Harborfields team. “I was prepared, but I didn’t think I would do this well. So I was surprised.”

Zhang led throughout the competition, edging out Hauppauge’s Sean Rorke, who finished with a 461.70. The two qualified for the state championships, scheduled for March 1 at the Nassau Aquatic Center at 1 p.m.

“I’ve worked so hard toward this during the season and the offseason and this is what I wanted more than anything,” said Rorke about qualifying for the state championship. “And now that I’m here, it doesn’t feel real.”

Rorke, who set a school record, said he was trying to block out anything that could go wrong on his final dive, knowing the execution would determine his fate of competing in a state championship.

“I knew I was close, but I didn’t want to know how close,” Rorke said. “I didn’t want to look and I had to clear my head of everything. It was insane.”

Rorke, a junior, only started diving as a freshman, but recalled what his coach told him from the very start.

“I remember my coach saying, ‘Later in your diving career, you’re going to get to states and place in states,’ ” Rorke said. “And it felt so far away. And now, it feels so much closer and it’s weird for me to see how far I’ve come.”

Zhang, who said he’s been diving more than four years, was proud of being able to win his first county title, competing against older student-athletes.

“It surprises me because usually this is won by older kids and there’s a lot of older kids,” Zhang said. “And I beat them.”

After finishing just a few points shy of winning last year’s Suffolk final, Zhang is thrilled to participate and show his talents at his first state final.

“I’m ready,” he said. “I’m super excited.”

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