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HS swimming: Double-duty divers lead Vikings swim squad

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CLAYTON — Joanne Bechaz and Darien Frederick have been diving for Thousand Islands since they were in seventh grade.

What’s unique about these divers, now in their senior year, is they can also be relied upon to compete in any swimming event.

“These two, I can put them in every race,” Thousand Islands coach Jon Benner said. “If I need anybody in any spot, literally I can throw them in. Except for wanting to do specific events, they never complain if I put them in something else.”

Frederick has embraced diving as her No. 1 event, while Bechaz has developed into a swimmer first, diver second.

Frederick recorded 196.88 points at a meet last week for the highest diving score in the Frontier League’s North Division this season. Bechaz clocked 6 minutes, 18.11 seconds, for the league’s fastest time in the 500-yard freestyle.

Bechaz much prefers long-distance swimming events.

“When you finish you’re completely drained and tired, and I just love that feeling,” Bechaz said. “Even hard sets in practice, I just love that feeling like you’ve accomplished something.”

Frederick’s favorite dive is the one somersault full twist.

“Flipping and twisting is the coolest feeling,” Frederick said. “Everything kind of whips around and all you see is a blur of colors.”

The versatility provided by Bechaz and Frederick helped Thousand Islands capture the team title at the Frontier League “B” Division Invitational on Saturday at Adirondack in Boonville. There was no diving event, so both were relied upon for swimming. Benner chose not to swim Bechaz in the 500 free. Instead, she raced in the 100 butterfly and as a part of all three relays in an effort to gain the highest combination of points. She finished third in the 100 fly and anchored TI’s first-place 200 free relay. Frederick was fourth in the 200 individual medley and swam on the Vikings’ winning relay.

Thousand Islands (2-1 overall and league), the defending “B” Division champion, also started the season with wins over South Lewis and Beaver River last week. It lost to Lowville on Tuesday.

Frederick and Bechaz practice their dives separately from swimming practice. They usually spend at least an hour after school with diving coach Jim Parker. Lately Frederick has been investing as much as two hours on diving, while Bechaz is taking some time off from diving to allow an injury to her Achilles tendon to heal. Both girls participate in the full swimming practice, which starts later in the afternoon.

Frederick didn’t realize early on that many other divers focus solely on diving. She used to ask diving competitors what events they swam in and they would tell her that diving was the only thing they did.

“We didn’t know originally that people just did diving,” Frederick said. “I thought everyone did both.”

Frederick and Bechaz work on technique and power in their dives.

“I call Joanne a power diver, and I do more technique,” Frederick said. “She likes to do doubles, and she likes to do flips, whereas I like to do twists. So that’s where we differ in the diving aspect.”

MEDLEYS HELP FUEL MEDLEY RELAY

A pair of sisters on the Watertown girls swimming team has attracted a little extra attention while competing together in the 200-yard medley relay this season.

Emily and Allison Medley are occasionally called upon for the event by Watertown coach Lori Peters.

“I’m excited this year because I’ve got my sister in the medley relay,” said Emily, who is a junior in her fourth season on the varsity squad.

Many people are amused to discover the medley connection.

“People say, ‘Hey, your last name is Medley, just like the medley relay,’” sophomore Allison said.

The girls also receive plenty of comments from family and friends. “They’re always talking about the Medleys in the medley relay,” Emily added.

Emily swims the backstroke, and Allison the breaststroke portion of the relay.

“She’s really good at backstroke, and I’m really good at breaststroke,” Allison said. “We’re kind of opposites because I’m not very good at backstroke.”

Emily has clocked the fourth-fastest time in the league’s North Division in the 100 backstroke this season, while Allison clocked 1 minute, 19.23 seconds for the top time in the 100 breaststroke.

The defending league champion Cyclones are 3-1 overall, 3-0 in the Frontier League, this season.

Sportswriter Leslie Sheldon covers Frontier League girls swimming for the Times. She may be reached at lsheldon@wdt.net.

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