Boys Swimming Captain Feature Winter Sports

Captain Q&A: Reigning Nepsac Champion Zack Peng ’21 ‘Treats Every Practice Like a Competition’

In his sixth year of competitive diving, Zack Peng ’21 serves as the Diving Captain and is a cornerstone of the team. According to Bennett Pease ’21, Peng’s talent in the sport and qualities of a leader have been contagious. Pease said, “One of the best qualities of the dive team is that it is very low-stress but still supportive, and I think that is exactly what Zack is. Always cheering everyone on and super super supportive, but never stressed.” 

When did you start diving? What teams/clubs? Describe your diving career before Andover. 

I started diving when I was ten years old, so about six years ago. When I was ten, for a half a year or so, I did recreational [swim] just at my nearby [recreational] center. It was Saturday classes just for fun, but then I switched to full-time club diving, which [included] five practices a week. I just kept that up until [Junior Year], when I came to Andover. Then I stopped year-round diving and only did in-season at Andover in the Winter [Term]. 

What aspect of diving do you enjoy the most? 

I think the most enjoyable aspect would be just trying to learn a new dive. Within itself, the goal of having a very clear goal or challenge set, and then the feeling you get when you overcome that challenge and learn the new dive, is unmatched. Then, of course, there are the people you meet because diving is a travel sport, so you go to a lot of different places to compete. And when you’re in warmups of a competition, you get to talking to some of the divers there, who you know you will be competing against. You get to hear about their story and where they’re from.

How do you like to prepare for big meets in order to perform to the best of your ability? 

I would say one of the largest things to being successful is always working ahead of time. Treating every practice like a competition is the main thing for me, so when the actual competition comes, I don’t feel the pressure of a meet. That way, I’m mentally at ease and not stressed about it. Even saying that, before meets I do get nervous, but I think the main thing is I always make sure to stretch so I don’t hurt myself because that would be the worst thing. Beforehand, I just relax and think back to all the work that I’ve done in preparation for this meet and in the long term, and just do it. 

Can you describe an experience(s) you had during a big meet and why it sticks out to you?

The first one is [the Nepsac Championships] last year. I went into the meet not expecting much. My mindset was to go in and do the best that I can, and I actually ended up winning last year, and that was a huge win for me and the Boys Swim & Dive team. Another experience would be in my club diving. Since I’m at Andover, I had to quit year-round diving, which was pretty challenging, because for U.S.A. diving I have to compete against all year-round divers, and I only train during the winter season. So the spring of [Lower] year I went off-campus to compete at [the 2019 U.S.A. Diving Junior Region 1 Championships]. Again, I didn’t have many expectations and was just showing up and trying to do my best and I actually qualified for [the 2019 USA Diving Zone A Championships] later in the summer and finally made it to [the 2019 USA Diving Junior National Championships]. Personally for me, that was a huge win, especially because I was competing against all year-round divers, whereas I am a seasonal diver, and that was definitely a good feeling. 

How has Andover’s dive program helped you develop as an athlete and teammate? 

I just need to go back to the people. My coach, [Head Coach Belinda Wolf], is great—she’s actually a godsend. She walks the team and me through things, and since my [Junior] year I knew that this is the place where I wanted to be. I did give up year-round diving, but honestly, I’ve never looked back. So her being my coach and mentor is huge for me, and she helped me a lot in my success as a high school diver. On the team, every single year I meet new people, and it’s just been great since my [Lower] year seeing [Juniors] below me come on the team every year and improve; that’s just huge. I guess just seeing the progression of everyone including myself was phenomenal. We also have a lot of good conversations between teammates at practice and have come to be really close.