West Xtra: Versatility helps Beaver team succeed
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A football-playing diver, a cross-country running swimmer, and a backstroke battle.
With athletic diversity such as that it's no wonder the Beaver Area High School boys' swimming team is scoring big this season.
As the Bobcats beat Montour last week in a non-section meet, Micah Ringer broke a school record for diving. The previous record set by Steve Cutler in 2007 had been 195.29 points. But Ringer felt it was time to step things up.
Ringer's dive sheet was stacked -- lots of full twists and back doubles. But it was the double front flip (two somersaults) that really pushed Ringer's score. The judges awarded him sixes and sevens (out of a possible 10).
Ringer established a school record at 201.37 points (for six dives), but the way he arrived at such ability was unusual.
"His motivation was that last year he came on as a first-year diver," said Dana Tabay, Beaver Area's swimming and diving coach.
Ringer also swims for the Bobcats, and had been a swimmer before trying his skill as a diver. But last season, Tabay took over as a new coach for the Bobcats and her perspective helped her to observe Ringer's talent.
"He was kind of messing around over at the [diving] mat and I was like, 'Keep it up -- you're going to be on the diving team,'" Tabay recalled. "Sometimes as a new coach, kids don't know if you're serious or not."
But Tabay was serious.
Ringer added diving events to his list, and placed fourth at the WPIAL Class AA championship meet last year. In Ringer's first season as a diver, he qualified for the PIAA meet.
Ringer is listed as a running back on the Bobcats' football team, but recalled some initial fears about becoming a diver.
"My dad played football ... he said that if you play the game right you'll never get hurt," Ringer said. "I realized with diving it's exactly the same thing."
After working individually to practice diving at the University of Pittsburgh, Ringer's fears were dispelled.
The stories from that meet against Montour don't end with Ringer.
Senior Cameron Clerici his his own pool record in the 100-yard butterfly. Clerici's previous best time had been 54.6 seconds, but his time to beat is now 54.53 seconds.
Clerici's name is often in the paper next to fast times, but in the fall it's for cross country. He qualified as an individual for the PIAA Class AA championship meet this past fall, and ran in the WPIAL meet as part of Beaver's fourth-place squad.
"[Running and swimming] actually aid each other very well. Swimming really teaches athletes how to utilize oxygen. That helps a lot in cross country because it really gives you an advantage over other athletes," Clerici said. "Cross country gives you lots of toned leg strength without bulking you up."
Clerici, a senior, actually prefers swimming to running and has committed to Denison University in Ohio where he plans to continue his swimming career.
Regardless of Clerici's athletic preference, he is so fast in the water that he currently holds all of the individual records in Beaver Area's pool ... except one.
Senior Bill Crumrine took the meet against Montour as an opportunity to start chasing Clerici's records, and Crumrine did so in the 100-yard backstroke event. Crumrine's time was 57.30 seconds, which bettered Clerici's record of 58.50 seconds.
"We're going to be having a backstroke battle between the two," said Tabay excitedly. "I think it's great. It's motivation to get better times."
"When we're at practice, we can see each other because we aren't waiting for the same lane," said Crumrine about being on the team with Clerici. "We race against each other at practice ... it pushes him to get faster records and it pushes me to keep up with him."
With experts in backstroke, butterfly and dives, the Beaver team is benefitting from the more technical events of a swim meet. This is no coincidence, as Tabay coaches from a standpoint of precise form.
"We really focus on streamlining," said Tabay. "It's the little things with each stroke. Like, in the kick if they're not utilizing their hips enough in the butterfly, they're not going to be fast in the water."
Similarly, Tabay explained that swimmers need to force their eyes to follow the black lane lines painted on the pool floor. This will keep their heads flat to the water's surface.
To condition the Bobcats' breathing, Tabay requires the swimmers to work a pattern. They begin by taking three strokes before breathing. After that, they must take five strokes before their next breaths. The number of strokes increases as a series of odd numbers (3, 5, 7, 9, etc.), and the swimmers become more efficient.
First Published January 17, 2013 12:00 am