By TOM ROBINSON
For The Dallas Post
Matthew Edkins merged two sporting interests together as a young boy.
Six years later, the Lake-Lehman sophomore has established himself as one of the best high school athletes in the state at his new endeavor.
Edkins earned his second Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association state medal in Class AA boys diving March 14 at Bucknell University with a third-place finish at the PIAA Swimming and Diving Championships.
The son of Lake-Lehman swimming coach Nancy Edkins, Edkins was used to being around the pool when his mother was coaching the sport at Misericordia University. After spending four early years in gymnastics, he took many of the skills and traits necessary for success in that sport and brought them back to the pool.
“During gymnastics, I got an injury with my heel,” said Edkins, who made the switch in 2007. “Mom knew a diving coach and signed me up for that. I kind of got right into it.”
While the Lake-Lehman swimming program, which does not have its own pool, struggles, Edkins will jump into a swim event and do the best he can to help the team.
His training time, however, goes into perfecting his skills as a diver. And, that is where he has been able to help the Black Knights make an impact at the state level.
“You have to make sure you get all the fine stuff down before you can get into the more complex skills,” Edkins said. “You just have to practice a lot.”
That practice has paid off.
Edkins won District 2 titles in both his freshman and sophomore seasons. At Bucknell, Edkins picked up a sixth-place state finish as a freshman.
“I think I was just kind of going to do my best and the medal was a nice addition,” Edkins said.
Expectations were higher this season.
“Especially with my seed, seeded third, I wanted to make sure I stayed at my seed or finished higher,” he said. “I’m happy I did that.”
Like top high school athletes in other sports, Edkins will continue his training year-round. He coaches and participates in the Back Mountain Dive Club. That participation means practice for the entire spring, summer and most of the fall until high school competition returns in early December.
Edkins will work the same dives repeatedly, trying to perfect them, while doing abdominal work, push-ups for arm strength and training to increase his leg strength and push off from the diving board.
In essence, he will still perform some of the same flipping and twisting he started as a gymnast, only he will land in water.
Edkins led the way at the state meet but was not the only Back Mountain medalist at the PIAA Swimming and Diving Championships.
Brian Stepniak took seventh in the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle events and was part of a 200 freestyle relay team that also finished seventh in Class AA for Dallas. Marcus Wagner, Patrick Gelso and Jack Matusiak were also on the relay team.
Dallas placed ninth in the team standings out of 60 teams that scored points at the state level.