Observer-Reporter Athlete of the Week
Name: Stephen Zombek
School: South Fayette
Zombek’s week: Zombek competed in the WPIAL Class AA diving championships over the weekend, where he took home the title with a score of 423.55 that defeated Micah Ringer of Beaver. It is his second straight WPIAL championship.
Zombek successfully completed six dives, including a twister to clinch the win and was pleased with his front two-and-one half somersault that separated him from the competition at South Park High School.
Trampoline days: Zombek was just 8-years old when family friends saw him having fun on a trampoline in his backyard. He was so impressive that they suggested he give diving a shot. Zombek excelled in his early years on the board, while also competing on the wrestling team and running track.
He was devoted to wrestling, but that changed when he reached the eighth grade. A broken ankle shifted his focus to diving, where he enjoyed the casual nature of the sport as well as the discipline needed to succeed. Working on technique and strengthening his core were exciting steps along the way. During the regular season, Zombek trains five days a week while working on casual dives and conditioning
During his sophomore season, he finished second at the WPIAL championships after a failed dive that cost him the title. Entering the same meet in his junior year, he felt the pressure was on.
“Coming off a failed dive, I knew I should have had it my sophomore year, so there was definitely more pressure last year,” Zombek said. “This year, I faced my competition more, so I knew what I would be up against that day. I kind of took that into account and did what I know how to do. It was less of a nerve-racking experience this year.”
For Zombek, reflecting on his days on the family’s backyard trampoline are surreal. He cannot believe the progress he has made the past 10 years. This season, he broke the school record with his 11-dive list. He had already set the mark for a six-dive set.
“When I first started out, with the competition and stuff like that, I didn’t think I would be in this position today,” Zombek said. “It’s a lot of work, and you just have to put it all out there. It’s crazy how far I’ve come.”
Next step: After again capturing the WPIAL title that eluded him as a sophomore, Zombek is preparing for the PIAA championships set for March 12-14 at Bucknell University. After finishing 14th last season, his goal is a spot on the podium.
“I want to get top-eight this year and be able to stand up on the podium with those guys,” Zombek said. “That would be a pretty incredible way to end my season.”
Zombek calls diving his fun sport. This past fall, Zombek helped South Fayette win the Class AAA WPIAL team title in cross country and is a four-year letter winner in the sport.
While St. Bonaventure has expressed interest in Zombek joining their swim team, he currently plans to run track for Slippery Rock University, where he will pursue a degree in physical therapy.
“I always thought I would go with the sport I was more passionate about,” Zombek said. “With diving, I think it’s definitely a really fun sport and it’s cool, but I’m pretty passionate about running. It’s my niche.”
Compiled by Lance Lysowski