BY MICHAEL KELLY
NISKAYUNA — Not too long after joining the Niskayuna High School boys swimming and diving team this past December, sophomore Ethan Bachert had an — ahem — odd question for the team’s head coach.
“Coach, are we all going to wear our thongs to the pool today?” Steve Hall remembered Bachert asking.
After staring puzzled at Bachert for a few moments, Hall said he walked away, unsure what to say to his team’s midseason addition from Australia. Soon, Bachert’s teammates explained to the sophomore why his query was an unusual one — and he could only smile and laugh at a Feb. 26 practice as he remembered the mix-up.
“In Australia, thongs are flip-flops; you wear them to the beach,” he said. “Obviously, that’s the women’s underwear here, so that was pretty funny. I got some weird looks.”
Laughs aside, Bachert became a pivotal contributor for the Silver Warriors from mid-December on, after making the move to the United States from Adelaide, a city in southern Australia. Bachert finished his scholastic season Feb. 28 at the state championships competing in both the 100 butterfly and 200 freestyle, finishing No. 13 in the 100 butterfly with a time of 52.40 seconds. Earlier in the season, at the Section II championships, Bachert had broken the Niskayuna school record in the 100 butterfly with a mark of 51.94 seconds.
Besides Bachert, two Niskayuna divers competed at the state championships out at Ithaca College: Jack Newton finished in 15th place and Matthew Chao did not make it to the finals.
Also in the pool, Niskayuna’s Aidan Strayer competed in the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle, finishing 17th in the latter with a time of 4:43.52.
Strayer had made it to the state championships last season, but Hall said it was possible the senior would have missed out on this year’s championships if not for Bachert joining the squad. For the season’s early weeks, Strayer had little competition at practice.
“Ethan filled that void for Aidan,” Hall said.
“It’s much easier when you have someone to race at practice,” Strayer said.
Bachert, 16 years old, was born in Australia and first moved to Niskayuna as a small child. He attended Niskayuna schools through second grade before moving back to Australia through his freshman year of high school, and then moved back to Niskayuna in December with his mother, father, and 14-year-old sister Hannah. The family has moved around because of Bachert’s father’s work as an energy consultant, but Bachert said he is expecting to be in Niskayuna for the rest of his high school years and plans to attend college in the United States.
He said he still does not quite understand how yards equate to meters or how the Fahrenheit temperature system works. In the pool, though, Bachert is at ease; before coming to the United States, Bachert had competed three times in nationals in Australia, coming in 10th place last year in his age group.
Bachert’s performances in the pool have impressed his teammates, but Strayer said the best thing about the new teammate was getting him accustomed to his new culture.
“There were some pretty funny things when he got here, he has some different vernacular. He’d say some things, and we’d all be like, ‘Whaaaaat?’ ” said Strayer. “But it’s been a positive experience for all of us.”
“The boys get a kick out of it. They all poke fun at each other, but it’s all good-natured,” said Hall. “Ethan’s been a great addition for us.”