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GIRLS SWIMMING AND DIVING: Bemidji riding new communication tech to efficient gains

It’s hard to hear someone talking when you’re underwater. Luckily for the Bemidji High School girls swimming and diving team, someone realized that and did something about it.

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Bemidji junior Ki Grospe swims the 500-yard freestyle against Warroad on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, at the BHS pool.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI – It’s hard to hear someone talking when you’re underwater.

Luckily for the Bemidji High School girls swimming and diving team, someone realized that and did something about it. This season, the Lumberjacks are practicing with “swim ears” made by MOST Swim Tech, which allow swimmers to hear instructions from coaches clearly while in the pool.

“Other sports on dry land, while they're doing the drill or whatever, they can hear you,” head coach Woody Leindecker said. “In the water, they can't. So now as coaches, we can change things on the fly. If somebody's dropping their elbow or just doing something minor, you don't have to wait for them to finish the length. Sometimes by the time they do that, you forgot (the instruction) yourself.”

The ability to give directions efficiently has helped Leindecker run practices smoothly, as he doesn’t have to wait for the swimmers to surface before telling them to switch drills. The Jacks certainly looked to be in good form on Tuesday at the BHS pool, beating Warroad/Roseau/Greenbush/Middle River 209-99 in a dual meet.

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The Lumberjacks encourage teammates competing in the 400-yard freestyle relay against Warroad on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, at the BHS pool.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Of course, the ability to communicate with his swimmers at all times has its drawbacks. Just because Leindecker can provide good advice all the time doesn’t necessarily mean he does.

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“When we first started using them, I was talking maybe too much,” Leindecker said. “Just about whatever, like ‘So and so didn't give me a discount when they were working at the Dairy Queen’ or something like that. It's fun. Then they'll stop and turn around and (look at me).”

Sophomore Brooke Kemp injected a humorous take on whether her coach should be more judicious with his words.

“No, it’s good,” she said of his monologues. “It’s distracting.”

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Bemidji's Brooke Kemp, front, and Kaylah McFarlane swim the 100-yard freestyle against Warroad on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, at the BHS pool.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

If it’s distraction you’re looking for, the swim ears can certainly provide that. Leindecker said the team will sometimes play music through the earpieces during long training races, which can help swimmers with the monotony and fatigue associated with those distances.

As can be expected with such a dominant performance points-wise, Bemidji finished on top in several events on Tuesday.

Elena Harmsen, Abby Daman, Ryan Gaskins and Elle Wille finished first in the 200-yard medley relay with a time of 2:07.44, and Kylie Graham, Wille, Molly Matetich and Daman won the 400 freestyle relay in 4:25.95.

Wille took first in the 50 free with a time of 28.96, and Ki Grospe joined her with a first-place 6:35.20 in the 500 free.

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Bemidji senior Gracie Mohs swims the 200-yard relay against Warroad on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, at the BHS pool.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Gaskins took the top spot in the 100 backstroke at 1:12.86, and Mataya Carter emerged victorious in the 100 breaststroke in 1:30.78. Ava Lietz won the 100 butterfly with a time of 1:17.00.

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Ridley Hadrava topped the diving field with a score of 188.50 points, followed by Kenna Olson, who took second with 181.60.

At this point in the season, the Lumberjacks have largely built up their cardiovascular base, so Leindecker has started to experiment with lineups to strategize for the section meet.

“Tonight, we mixed the lineup,” Leindecker said. “We had a lot of kids swimming in events they've never swum before or haven’t in a long time. Still looking – doing our research, I guess, for the section lineup.”

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Bemidji freshman Abigail Daman competes in the 100-yard backstroke against Warroad on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, at the BHS pool.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

The varsity-only event also provided a strenuous challenge for the BHS swimmers, who typically have more time to rest during the junior varsity portions of a meet.

“This was just one heat of everything,” Leindecker said. “Just a straight varsity meet because they didn't have the numbers. A lot of (our swimmers swam) four events in an hour and 15 (minutes). It was really tough, but it was good conditioning. It was a good practice, actually, for them.”

The Jacks return to competition against Park Rapids in a dual meet at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 27, back at the BHS pool.

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Bemidji junior Molly Matetich competes in the 100-yard breaststroke against Warroad on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, at the BHS pool.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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Bemidji's Elle Wille swims the 100-yard butterfly against Warroad on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, at the BHS pool.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Christian Babcock is a sports reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer. He trekked to Bemidji from his hometown of Campbell, Calif., after graduating from the Cronkite School at Arizona State University in 2021. Follow him on Twitter at @CB_Journalist for updates on the Lumberjacks and Beavers or to suggest your favorite local restaurant.
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