Women's Swimming

They dove right in...: Pond sisters use gymnastics as springboard

March 25, 2005

Geography sometimes influences history. It certainly did in the case of the diving Pond sisters of Wayland.

Melissa Pond was a sophomore in high school when her family moved from Vermont. She and her younger sisters -- Amanda and Sarah -- were gymnasts when they first arrived in town.

"I had been on the gymnastic team at my high school in Vermont," said Melissa, the 2003 Wayland Town Crier Female Athlete of the Year who is now a sophomore at UMass. "But Wayland High didn't have a gymnastics team. I already knew how to flip so I decided to try diving. It turned out pretty well. I was wrecking my body in gymnastics anyway."

Sarah, a 15-year-old sophomore, was actually the greybeard when it came to the sport of gymnastics.

"We all did gymnastics, but my younger sister Sarah did it more extensively," said Amanda, a 17-year-old senior. "If we hadn't moved I might have still been on the gymnastics team. Although it is tough on your body."

"I did gymnastics for seven years," said Sarah. "I quit when I was in the fifth grade. But it turned out to be helpful when I took up diving my freshman year in high school."

Melissa, who also played field hockey in high school, began her college career at Springfield College. She dove last winter and played lacrosse last spring for the Pride. "The school was a little too small for my liking," she said. "Not to mention expensive."

Had she stayed at Springfield, Melissa might have limited her athletic pursuits to lacrosse.

"The seasons overlapped," said Melissa. "Diving interfered with lacrosse and I got to the point where I felt like I didn't like diving. But when I went to UMass I realized how much I missed it."

When Melissa transferred to UMass she initially thought her athletic career was over. But she ended joining the swimming and diving team after the season had actually begun.

"I joined the team late, but I ended up having an awesome time," said Melissa. "I now dive year round, but I do miss lacrosse."

Amanda, who played field hockey and will captain the Wayland girls lacrosse team this spring, might be headed to the UMass campus next fall.

"I applied to UMass and should be hearing soon," said Amanda, who is also considering Ithaca, Vermont, Northeastern, Pepperdine and Delaware. "I have an opportunity to dive at UMass. The coach has expressed an interest in me. So has the Ithaca coach."

Amanda won a state championship in diving as a junior and missed out repeating this winter by three points.

Misfortune gave Amanda a special diving teammate this winter. "Caroline Meliones, my best friend, was a diver this year because she had a shoulder injury and couldn't swim."

Melissa would like the opportunity to be reunited with her younger sister next year. She chuckles a little about their first go-around as diving teammates.

"Amanda would probably say I was mean to her," said Melissa. "I was really hard on her, really pushed her. I really wanted her to be good. But the sport gave us one more thing in common. We could practice together, talk about it together."

Sarah also plays field hockey in the fall and lacrosse in the spring.

"I always get sick of a sport by the end of that season," Sarah said. "When I started diving, it reminded me of gymnastics. I'm not sure what's going to end up happening, but I could see myself diving in college."

Both of Sarah's sisters will be off at college next year and that will be strange for her.

"I'm going to miss having Amanda there," said Sarah. "It's always nerve-wracking going to meet. It was nice to have my sister there."

Sarah will have to rely on her talented diving teammates next year. People like juniors Lindsay Gardel and JoJo Aresty, sophomore Anna Stern and freshmen Lea D'Ambrosio and Hannah Jahnke.

Wayland head swimming coach Mike Foley thinks the one thing that sets the Ponds apart is their drive. "They have a great work ethic to start," said Foley. "They're all very competitive young ladies. They just don't like to lose.

"They've all been members of a most competitive program. They play other sports so they jump in for three months and they're up to that level, which is amazing. Their competitive edge is an enormous part of their success."

So is the close family bond.

"They all get along so well," said Foley. "Melissa came to our meets this year and gave her sisters and others the benefit of her college experience. I don't sense any pressure among the sisters. They just want to have fun and compete. They really help each other out."

Melissa knows about helping out and she's appreciative of those who have helped her along the way.

"I've been fortunate to have awesome coaching," said Melissa. "Mandy Hixon, my coach at UMass, is just awesome. So was Peter Avdoulos at Springfield. So was Jim Kelly, who was my coach at Wayland. I've always had awesome coaching."

The coaches might say the Pond sisters were awesome to have around.

"Wayland is lucky to have the Pond girls," said Foley. "Athletically they're terrific. They're great leaders and they're great team players. We've been lucky to have them around."




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