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Bemidji swimmer Frey keeps breaking records

Steph Frey. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

In high school girls swimming there are eight individual events, three relays and diving. At Bemidji High School junior Steph Frey has seven of the individual records and is also a part of the record 200-yard freestyle relay team.

And by this time next year she could own the other individual swimming record and share in the remaining two relay standards.

"I might try diving in a meet next year just so that I can say that I competed in every event in a swim meet but I don't think I'll get the diving record. My dad says that diving is too dangerous," Frey said. "The only other swimmer that I know of who tried diving is Scott Welle. And I would like to be the second."

Heading into her senior season, Frey will own the school record in the 200 free, 200 individual medley, 50 free, 100 fly, 100 free, 500 free and 100 breaststroke. She also is a part of the school-record 200 free relay, a standard that was set over the weekend at the state Class A swimming and diving meet.

"I don't think Steph will get the diving record but she certainly could get all of the others," said BHS coach Woody Leindecker.

"The backstroke record may be a stretch for her but Steph is as good a swimmer as I have ever coached and nothing is impossible for her."

Brook McKee owns the backstroke record. McKee, who swam in the late 1990s, also owned most of the other records that now belong to Frey.

"The backstroke is not my strong suit," Frey admitted. "But if I trained and worked really hard at it there would be a chance that I could break that record.

"And why not have them all?"

Frey capped her junior season by finishing third at the state meet in the 200 IM and the 100 free. A year ago Frey was third in the 100 breaststroke and seventh in the 200 free at the state meet.

That ability to become All State in a variety of events is rare in the world of high school girls swimming, according to Leindecker.

"This just demonstrates Steph's versatility," Leindecker said. "Right now I have a tough time figuring out what her best events are. This year we thought she would have a great opportunity to score high at state in the 100 free and because of her breast stroke we knew she could do well in the IM."

Frey was very satisfied with this fall's two third-place finishes at the state meet but a few years ago she couldn't envision standing at the podium on the large stage.

"When I was in Level 5 (about second grade) my sister decided to join the swim team and my parents thought it was probably a good time for me to join the BASS Club," Frey recalled. "I had fun swimming from the beginning and because it was fun I stayed with it.

"But at the start I wasn't anything extraordinary," Frey continued. "I wasn't terrible but I wasn't super good."

The transition from an average swimmer to an All State athlete began in the middle school.

"About seventh grade the little light bulb went on and I realized that maybe I could be a swimmer, that maybe this sport was for me," Frey said. "People told me I had potential but I really didn't know what I could do.

"I still don't know what I can do."

Leindecker doesn't fully comprehend Frey's potential but he knows that no achievement is out of her reach.

"I don't think I've seen any swimmer like Steph since Brook McKee and those are the records Steph is breaking," Leindecker said. "Steph is as good a swimmer as I have ever seen but I hope she isn't a once-in-a-lifetime swimmer for me as a coach. I would like to think I'll coach another swimmer as talented as Steph but I don't know if another will come along."

Success was not automatic for the Lumberjack junior. Her success is a result of dedication to the sport and putting in the extra time.

"I didn't get to the state meet through luck. It was through hard work," Frey said. "I've done my fair share of off-season work and extra laps during the season. There have always been people better than me and trying to improve has motivated me.

"All that hard work has been worth it," Frey continued. "This year my goal was to get on the state podium and I accomplished that. Next year my goal will be to do the same."

Frey probably will not be on the podium for her diving. But no one associated with the Bemidji swimming program would be surprised if Frey wears a state medal for her success with any of the swimming events.

"Nothing is out of Steph's reach," Leindecker said.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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