“Before the three-meter event, I told my coach I had to go to the shower and relax a little bit,” Nyquist said. “I was getting too excited because the whole team was doing so well.”
After he emerged from the showers, UNC’s top male diver captured his second first-place finish of the night, propelling the swimming and diving team to a strong showing — albeit a loss — against perennial power Georgia on Friday night.
The men’s team suffered a narrow 155-145 defeat, while the women fell 164-136 to the reigning national champions at Koury Natatorium. But Coach Rich DeSelm praised his team’s performance, especially on the diving boards.
“Coach (Abel) Sanchez has done wonders with our diving program in the past year. There’s some talent down at that end of the pool, and they’re performing extremely well,” DeSelm said.
For Nyquist, the second dual meet of the season was about more than squaring off against a daunting SEC opponent. It also took on a personal meaning: a Georgia native, Nyquist had trained with several members of the Bulldogs’ diving team before attending UNC.
“Of course I was talking to them before the meet, doing a little friendly trash-talking,” Nyquist quipped. “We were all really excited to see each other.”
And though Georgia’s swimmers outscored UNC’s, the Tar Heels won the battle on the boards. Nyquist thought his former training partners performed below their potential, and he attributed it, in part, to the energy inside the natatorium. UNC swimmers who had gathered around the edge of the diving well hooted and hollered as their teammates climbed the ladder and toed the edge of the board.
Then, as a Tar Heel diver prepared to jump: silence. After the splash: uproar.
DeSelm said the enthusiasm was rare for collegiate swim meets. Typically, the swimmers stay at their end of the pool, leaving the divers alone.
“The way the diving team has turned around, from being one of our weak spots to being one of our strengths, not only in the ACC but nationally, is huge for our team,” said swimmer Sam Lewis.
DeSelm said he’s noticed the divers lending and receiving much more support from the rest of the team.
“It’s a much healthier environment than we’ve had in a number of years in terms of the combined enthusiasm for one another,” he said.
In feeding off his current teammates’ energy, Nyquist delivered a punch to the stomach of his old teammates. Did he engage in some good-natured ribbing afterwards?
“I mean, yeah,” Nyquist said. “One of the guys on the team is my best friend, and I was just like, ‘Good try, man, we’ll see you next year.’”