Saints' Jones works through adversity
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on January 27, 2010 1:47 PM
Tyler Jones refused to quit.
A midseason neck injury couldn't keep him down.
A bad dive didn't damage his psychy.
The Southern Wayne senior worked through the adversity and emerged the 2010 Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference men's 1-meter diving champion Tuesday afternoon. Despite failing on one dive, Jones edged reigning state champion Collin Hobbs by the slimmest of margins in the B.G. Darden Natatorium pool.
Jones recorded 311.4 points on 11 dives. Hobbs, a junior at Eastern Wayne, logged 305.7 points. The Warriors' Denzel Benjamin ended up a distant third with 185.75 points.
All three swimmers have automatically qualified for the N.C. High School Athletic Association eastern regionals, which are Feb. 6 at the Goldsboro Family Y.
"It actually feels good," said Jones of the ECC title. "Last year, I quit right before conference and didn't want to dive any more. And then about two months ago, I had an injury on the board doing a reverse.
"I hit my neck and it messed me up pretty bad. I used it to motivate me because I knew I could still win if I put the effort into it."
It was Jones' third straight decision over Hobbs.
"We all went out there and did our best," said Hobbs. "T.J. had one bad dive and he didn't let it bother him. He came out with some higher degrees of difficulty than I did."
Hobbs successfully completed his 11 dives, while Jones scratched on his seventh dive -- a reverse, 1 1/2 somersault. Jones didn't finish the flip and landed in the water on his back.
He swam to the pool's edge, pulled himself out of the water, talked briefly with his coach and waited his next turn.
"You can't get out of the water and be upset," said Jones. "I said 'I've got three more dives left, and they're higher difficulty ... hard dives.' If I go out there and make my dives, do what I'm supposed to do, the higher difficulty will help get you the points.
"I still had a chance at winning, so I worked as hard as I could."
Once the meet ended, the two friends headed to the hot tub.
"T.J. has been working hard this season and he got what he deserved," said Hobbs.