Michael Hixon wins 1-meter title
LOS ANGELES -- Drew Livingston and Thomas Finchum were cruising along, not needing to look at the scoreboard or worry about their placing.
They were in front all the way.
Livingston and Finchum earned three perfect 10s on their way to a commanding victory in the 10-meter synchro final at the U.S. national diving championships Friday.
Livingston and Finchum, a 2008 Olympian, totaled 452.22 points for the six-dive round at UCLA. They received one 10 on the fourth dive and two more on their next one.
"We were in good rhythm and our synchro was good," Livingston said.
Toby Stanley and Steele Johnson were second at 404.70. Logan Shinholser and Ryan Hawkins took third at 367.20. Olympic diving great Greg Louganis presented the medals.
Finchum usually partners with David Boudia on platform, but the Olympian had teamed with Nick McCrory for this meet. Boudia and McCrory, fifth at the recent world championships in China, led after the preliminaries but dropped out to rest after returning from Shanghai.
Livingston and Finchum practiced together just two weeks before competing here for the first timem together. They'll compete in the Pan Am Games in October.
"It's pretty promising," Finchum said. "We were having fun the whole time."
The youngest competitors were 13-year-old Zach Cooper and 12-year-old Jordan Windle, who were fearless plunging off the 33-foot platform.
"It's awesome to see them here and diving so well," Finchum said about Cooper and Windle, who train with him in Indianapolis. "They got a really bright future."
They finished fifth among six teams, and the 5-foot Cooper and 4-5 Windle were the shortest medalists on the awards podium by a considerable margin.
"We get that we're smaller than everybody else, but we joke about it," Cooper said.
Windle once did a Disney Channel video on diving with Louganis.
"He's helped me along the way," Windle said. "He taught me about focus and concentration."
Windle was adopted from Cambodia as an 18-month-old by Jerry Windle and Andre Rodriguez. He began diving at 7 after eschewing Little League baseball.
"It's just a rush," he said, noting his eventual goal is the Olympics. "I can't think of any sport that's better than this."
Holding a slight lead going into the final round of 1-meter springboard, Michael Hixon came up big with a dive that earned mostly 9.5s to win.
Hixon totaled 392.20 in the six-dive final to earn his first senior national title. The 17-year-old from Amherst, Mass., was cheered loudly for his inward 2½ that clinched the gold medal.
"It was a little tight and I knew I had to stay with it," said Hixon, who had a single-digit lead.
Samuel Dorman finished second at 376.20, while Zachary Nees was third at 371.50 in the non-Olympic event. Michael Wright, who became the first black diver to win a national title last year, finished fifth.
Hixon is coached by his mother, Mandy, a former Ohio State diver who coaches the sport at Massachusetts.
"We get along really good," he said, adding his goal is to finish in the top six at next year's U.S. Olympic trials.
Hixon had to choose diving over basketball, which his father, David, coaches at Amherst College.
"I wanted to train harder for diving and I couldn't do both," he said.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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