Nicholas Shen didn’t simply win the Nassau County Diving Championship for the third consecutive year. The junior from Great Neck South High School accomplished the feat while breaking the county record for the highest score in a competition.
Shen’s first experience with water athletics was competitive swimming at a very young age. Despite showing promise, Shen said he wasn’t the biggest fan of the repetitive aspect of swimming.
“It just got kind of boring after a few years,” Shen said during an interview with Blank Slate Media. “It was just the same few strokes and swimming back and forth constantly. I felt like I could be doing more in a pool.”
Shen said when he was around 10 years old, his mother introduced him to diving, as she had a friend with daughters who participated. Immediately, he said, he found the sport that he was looking for.
“At first it was just for fun and meeting new people around the area,” Shen said. “After two or so years of doing it, I realized I wasn’t half bad, and that this could turn into something I can continue to do at a high level.”
Before having success at the high school level, Shen joined the New York Dive Club in the Bronx. Cultivating relationships and creating memories with other divers was one of the main reasons Shen said he continues to dive today.
Shen began competing at the high school level when he was in seventh grade. At first, he said the nerves and lack of knowing the other team members was a bit daunting to deal with.
“Everyone was just older and bigger than me,” Shen chuckled. “It got much easier once I grew into my body, matured a little bit, and actually started attending high school.”
When Shen was a freshman, Jim Morrow became the coach of South High’s diving team. Morrow, who also heads South High’s Special Education Department, touted the unique abilities Shen presented in the past three years, and what makes him so easy to coach.
“It definitely helps that he has a natural ability for the sport,” Morrow said. “It’s gotten to a point where, because he is the one that goes out there and physically does the dives, his knowledge has surpassed even mine.”
Morrow said Shen’s expertise and talent in the water translate to out of the water also. He said Shen is a natural leader, even though he may not always see himself as one.
“The way he conducts himself rubs off on the rest of the team in the best way,” Morrow said. “He is able to find that balance between composed and joyful. He stays focused throughout the dives and meets, but as soon as he comes out of the water, he’ll talk about what happened, laugh it off sometimes, and just bring good energy to the rest of the squad.”
“I try to treat each meet as a practice in my mind,” Shen said. “I take it seriously, but I just try to not let any pressure from myself or other people get to me. At the end of the day, I have to go out and try my hardest to win.”
This year, Shen’s “hardest” not only won him the county championship for the third consecutive year but also clinched him the best score in county history on Feb. 5 at Eisenhower Park’s Nassau Aquatic Center.
“I’d be lying if I said [the record] wasn’t on my mind,” Shen said. “After this one dive I did, I thought it was all over. But I came out and finished strong, so I’m proud of myself for that one.”
Shen’s final score of 580.35 surpassed the previous record of 567.35 set by Moustafa Ibrahim of Bellmore-Merrick in 2015.
After clinching the county title, Shen now has a chance to take home the state championship on March 6 at the Nassau Aquatic Center. When asked if there will be any changes to his preparation, Shen said his only goal is to improve.
“Every year I want to be better than I was last year,” Shen said. “Winning goes along with that, but I just want to have fun and keep improving.”
Shen also praised his parents, teammates for both his club and school and coaches for their constant support over the past seven years.