DURHAM — Abby Johnston was Drew Johansens first recruit after Johansen became Dukes diving coach in the summer of 2007.
Nick McCrory was part of Johansens second class.
Safe to say, Johansen will have a challenge replicating that kind of recruiting success, no matter how long he serves as the Blue Devils diving coach.
Johnston and McCrory will represent the United States at the Summer Olympics in London.
McCrory, a Chapel Hill native, will compete in the 10-meter platform and synchronized diving. Johnston, who is from Ohio, also qualified for the synchronized diving event.
Theyve really shown it can be done, Johansen said. One of the big questions about being a student-athlete at Duke is the balance between your sport and education. Theyre both top students and theyve proven that, yes, you can be a world-class student-athlete.
To reach the Olympics, however, McCrory and Johnston had to take a year off from being Duke student-athletes no class, no college competitions. Instead, they trained, competed in international events and worked with their respective partners in synchronized events.
Both of them being synchronized divers and their partners living in different areas of the country thats what made it a necessity, Johansen said of the year off. They had to travel twice a month sometimes to their partners pools.
McCrory nearly qualified for the 2008 Olympics, finishing fourth in the trials. He started preparing for London shortly thereafter, racking up a number of individual honors along the way, including the NCAA title in platform diving in 2010 and 2011.
Johnston also is an NCAA champion, winning the 3-meter springboard in 2011. She once dreamed about being an Olympic gymnast but changed sports to ease the strain on her body.
Johnston started working with Johansen at age 12 while Johansen was a club coach in Ohio. She was 14 when Johansen asked her if she might like to dive in the Olympics one day. She was dedicated enough to that goal to move to North Carolina for her last year of high school after Johansen became the Blue Devils coach, completing her degree online before enrolling at Duke.
For both divers, then, it wasnt just an entire year that boiled down to the Olympic Trials. In many ways, both had been pointing to the competition for the past four years, if not longer.
Needless to say, the pressure was substantial.
It was tough, McCrory said. I was just very antsy to compete already. It didnt really hit me until a month or three weeks before trials I really just wanted to get to Seattle and compete already and have it be over with.
Added Johnston: There was a moment of panic and anxiety the night before I competed thinking, I have this in the palm of my hand, and it could very easily slip out. Then I was like, No, Ive done the best that I can. Im going to do the best I can do.
Johnston and McCrory alleviated the anxiety by qualifying in the first event of the trials. McCrory and his partner easily qualified, but Johnstons London dreams came down to her final dive.
Johansen believes the fact she nailed it bodes well for her chances in London.
That moment that Abby had standing on that board knowing that she needed one of the best dives or her life to make the team, he said, that got her on the team, but it also is preparing her for London.
The same could be said for McCrory in the platform competition. He had a mediocre early dive that cast some doubt on his chances, but soon recovered.
Id like them to go over to London thinking that they want to perform the way they did at trials, Johansen said. The podium will take care of itself.