Mountain Pointe’s ‘odd couple’ excels - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Sports

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Mountain Pointe’s ‘odd couple’ excels

Pair leads Pride’s swim team in different but remarkable ways

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Posted: Thursday, September 23, 2010 8:00 am

Jeff Ding was one of the first Mountain Pointe swimmers to show up for a recent practice.

His hair is short, he acted surprised that a reporter wanted to talk to him and was tentative with his answers about being one of the team's leaders and his personal goals.

Zach Bradley showed up late, kind of strolled into the West Chandler Aquatic Center, his hair is long and all over the place and he was about as comfortable talking into the reporter's recording device as a morning radio DJ is with a microphone.

They are the Mountain Pointe boys swimming team's odd couple.

But they are similar in one very important aspect.

"We want to be the public school champions," Ding said, discounting Phoenix Brophy's presence as the top team in the state each and every season.

"I tell you what, we are good enough to be public school champions," Bradley said. "Of the four teams I have been part of here at Mountain Pointe, this is the best one and we can make a real run at it."

If that is going to come to fruition, Ding and Bradley are going to be a big reason why.

These two seniors have positioned themselves to have fantastic final seasons in the pool for the Pride, who were undefeated in dual meets as of Monday and are preparing for the Brophy Invitational this weekend.

Bradley's development to a top diver has been sudden and surprising.

He never competed in a meet before this season, but is posting totals in the 190s. Bradley brings an edge or freestyle-type style to the board.

Bradley and his father moved to Arizona when he was in the seventh grade, but his mom and half brother and sister are still in Colorado. He spends all school breaks up there and during the summer he is a lifeguard.

"Me and my buddy mess around and do all kinds of crazy things while diving," Bradley said. "But there is a swim team that comes to the pool and their diving coach was pretty good. I'd watch him and I'd start to think I could do it.

"I didn't know the real technique dives. I was just freestyling, but he taught me some of the basics to competition diving."

So he came back from Colorado this year and asked Mountain Pointe boys coach Steve Mancuso if he could give it a try.

"I had no idea what to expect, but it is unbelievable as far as how good he has become already and how hard he is working," Mancuso said. "He might be able to make a run at this diving thing. I told him, if you go play checkers I have your back. He is one of those athletes that can do whatever he puts his mind to."

Bradley finished eighth in the Class 5A Division I state meet in the 200 IM and the 100 backstroke last season so he is still doing his work in the pool as well. He plans on competing in those events while staying in shape for them, but for now he is focusing on the diving since it is still relatively new to him.

"I'd kick myself if I never gave it a shot," Bradley said. "After I started to get into my groove, I set my standard high. The main thing was I was open and free about doing it. I had a confidence. I had to figure out how to combine the illegal and legal dives together."

Ding, on the other hand, seems to do everything by the book.

"Jeff is your traditional leader and competitor," Mancuso said. "He has really embraced being a senior and what it takes to lead a team."

His events this season are the 200 IM and 100 breaststroke, dropping the 500 free from last year's disciplines.

"I'm swimming close to my best times from last season already," said Ding, who trains with Sun Devil Aquatics in the offseason. "It was really tough training over the summer with practice two times a day. I want to finish really strong and place in the top three at state."

With the new format for state - there are more teams forcing more quality teams into the Division I class - he knows it is going to be harder to do it, but Ding is up to the challenge.

"The thing about Jeff is, he has stepped up his focus because he knows it is going to be a fast state meet," Mancuso said. "The bar has been raised and he is ready to get there."

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Jason P. Skoda
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