Last year, Paul Friedman turned his gymnastics background into an eighth-place medal in the 1-meter diving competition at the Class 3A state championships. This year, the Peninsula High School sophomore has become even more prolific in the pool.
Even though it’s hard to tell where he stands statewide — his 386-point total is the only one listed among 3A athletes through Jan. 14 by the Washington Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association — he’s clearly improving.
For some perspective, those 386 points during an 11-dive competition in December would have placed him third at the 2012 state championships.
Friedman’s work with Peninsula School District diving coach Liz Litsch has become more intense this winter.
“We’ve been working on back-and-a-halves and reverse-and-a-halves, to get just a little bit higher DDs (degrees of difficulty) on those two categories,” Friedman said.
His frame has filled out in the past year, and he credits his work in the weight room for making him better on the diving board.
“Doing weights for your upper body, you get a little bit more confident in your diving, and it always feels a little bit better when you have a bigger body,” he said.
“You’ll be able to throw harder, you’ll be able to pull harder, you’ll be able to do all these different things you wouldn’t be able to do earlier.”
Of the seven athletes who finished ahead of Friedman last season, three have returned, and he’s looking forward to testing himself against the best.
When he arrives at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way on Feb. 15-16, he knows he’ll have to be at the top of his game to defeat Kennedy’s Brian Donohue, Shorecrest’s Aaron Moss and Enumclaw’s Jesse Skipworth, the only opponent to beat him in dual-meet competition this season.
“I really want to get those new dives down,” Friedman said. “Right now, it’s just about getting more prepared for state and districts.”
Friedman isn’t the only Peninsula athlete who looks primed for a strong postseason.
Caleb Riggs had an outstanding week following the Seahawks’ extended holiday vacation. The junior returned to competition Jan. 8 at Foss, where he recorded state-qualifying times in the 200-yard individual medley and 100 breaststroke.
That day, his time in the 200 IM was a bit deceiving.
“I hit the bottom of the pool at Foss, so that slowed me down a little,” Riggs said.
Two days later against Steilacoom at the Lakes High pool, he cut more than three seconds in the IM, and his mark of 1 minute, 59.80 put him fourth statewide.
No one may catch Kennedy sophomore Tommy Thach at the state meet — his fastest time is 1:53.06 — but Riggs has positioned himself to medal in the IM for the first time. He qualified for state as a sophomore and finished 19th.
Meanwhile, Riggs also is getting faster in the breaststroke. His time of 1:02.55 against Foss broke the state standard, and he knows he can go faster. He swam the event in 1:00.57 last month, the third-fastest time 3A time this season.
Riggs was seventh in the breaststroke at the 2012 state meet, and he’s not relaxing with his goals in sight. His formula for success has been quite simple.
“(I’m) working hard, focusing, swimming dumb and not really thinking about it, just going swimming,” he said.Sports Editor Neil Pierson can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_neil.