Home-schooled from grades 4 through 12, local diver Zach Cooper knew life would be much different once he got to college.
Cooper, who grew up competing in individual and synchronized diving competitions throughout the United States and abroad, is basking in every aspect of his freshman year at the University of Miami (Florida).
Located 1,200 miles from Cooper’s home, the Coral Cables campus offers him everything he would want academically, athletically and socially.
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“I’ve been loving life down here. It’s been great,” Cooper said. “You’ve got the diving team, the campus is small and beautiful, and I’ve been to two or three of our home football games.
“It’s a whole new experience, but I’m adjusting well. The hardest part is managing time.”
When not competing, Cooper trains four hours daily to go along with a class schedule that usually starts at 8 a.m. He has yet to declare a major.
Even before arriving at Miami, Cooper already had put together an impressive diving résumé that included competing at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in two events and representing his country at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
Now using those talents for the Hurricanes’ program, Cooper, who chose Miami over Purdue and Minnesota, recently starred at a diving invitational at the University of Texas. He won the platform event, came in second in the 3-meter springboard and third in the 1-meter springboard.
Randy Ableman is in his 29th season as Miami’s men’s and women’s diving coach. He’s been honored as NCAA Diving Coach of the Year on nine occasions, including a run of six consecutive seasons (1995-2000), and been part of the U.S. coaching staff in five of the past six Summer Olympics.
He admires and appreciates the work ethic Cooper brings to the Hurricanes’ program.
“We’re going to the next level and taking him from being one of the best junior divers in the country to one of the best divers in the country,” Ableman said. “Zach is a great diver, but he’s even a better kid. He’s the hardest worker we have, and it’s rubbed off on the rest of the team.”
Cooper trains four hours a day and currently has his sights set on the U.S. Diving Winter Nationals in Greensboro, N.C., from Dec. 13 to 19. In March, he’ll be focused on the NCAA Championships at the University of Tennessee.