At age 16, Ally James is like many teenagers. Focused on getting her driver’s license, listening to music and hanging with her friends. However, this Belfast Area High School junior has proven, for awhile, to be in a league of her own.

This winter, James not only juggled schoolwork with a social life, but also participated, and excelled, in indoor track, swimming and diving.

This year, James won the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B diving title with 237 points and placed third in the event at the state Class B championships with 256.9 points. A mere three days later, she placed sixth in the state Class B pole vault with a jump of eight feet and, earlier, was second in the KVAC Class B competition with a jump of seven feet in the same event.

As if that were not enough, James also is the reigning state Class B outdoor track-and-field pole vaulting champion, having won the title at the state meet last season spring.

That is a plethora of activities for one teenager’s plate, but James likes it that way. During the winter sports season, James would immediately hit track practice until 4 p.m. only to dive straight into swim practice until 5 p.m. She said she prefers her often rigorous schedule because “I feel the sports help me manage my time better.”

For many athletes one sport is plenty. For James, it seems she could handle more.

James not only participates in the pole vault and diving. She also runs the 4×800 relay and occasionally, the 4×400-meter relays in indoor track and also takes part in swim relays and the 200 freestyle on the swim team.

Notably, all Belfast divers are required to swim with the team.

Proving she is more than just a diving and jumping sensation, James also was part of the team that placed second in the 200 free relay at the KVAC Class B swim championships, along with teammates Elizabeth McAvoy, Rosie LaCivita and Kalyn Robbins.

James started swimming, diving and participating in track her freshman year at BAHS. She also was a gymnast for five years in New Hampshire where she learned skills she could apply to her high school sports.

She doesn’t seem like she wants it any other way.

“It’s just something to do and I have fun,” she said of doing two sports in the same season. “I enjoy doing it [so] I might as well.”

James said the first two weeks at the beginning of the season can be a challenge, especially two practices a day working many different muscles in the team’s respective workouts.

“It was a little rough on my body,” she said. “It was fine [though] I was sore for a little while, I just got used to it.”

She added that while diving is not hard on her body, sometimes she tires mentally more than physically when it comes to that aspect of the pool. And why not?

To prepare for a dive takes considerable thought. James has to think about not only her approach, hurdle and position in the air, but when to come out of the dive or kick out of the somersault.

However, with pole vaulting, “you kind of just go with it.”

Clearly, given the nature of the events she thrives at both in the water and out, James has no qualms about heights. Not only does the feel of flying appeal to the junior, but she added that “everything kind of goes away for a minute.”

“That’s just fun for me, being up there,” James said. “[The feeling] kind of just developed for me because gymnastics is kind of like that in a way so it was kind of a natural transition.”

James admitted to being a bit uneasy the first time she performed a reverse dive. Seeing the board behind her head was an uncomfortable feeling, but one she soon overcame.

Now, when asked what she likes about the two winter sports, she said simply: “The fear of it.”

“I’m going to run and throw myself over a bar or I’m going to jump in the air and spin and hopefully it ends up OK,” she said. “It’s like the fear of that and doing it well is a big accomplishment.”

Even though James plays field hockey in the fall, she prefers participating in non-team winter sports, where she can be judged individually as well as part of the team.

“They are the most fun,” she said. “Well, they are team sports, but they give you an opportunity to excel on your own and still be part of a team so you have a team aspect of it and the individual [aspect] as well.”

James likes to combine team success with individual accomplishments. Competing on her own gives her the chance to not only do well for a team, but make herself better each step of the way. And that is something everyone should strive for.

“It just shows that with hard work that you can become better and you can still always get better,” she said. “Get the next height [or] get a new dive. There is always room for improvement.”

Personal box

Name: Allison “Ally” James.

Age: 16.

Grade: Junior at Belfast Area High School.

Parents: Richard and Kathy Berry.

Town: Belfast.

Favorite personal moment in sports: Winning the state Class B title in the pole vault last year.

Favorite athletes: Yelena Isinbayeva and my brother Ryan James.

Favorite course in school: History.

TV show I never miss: “Grey’s Anatomy.”

What is your favorite phone/computer app? I don’t have one.

What are your thoughts on facebook/twitter/YouTube? Useful for getting in touch with people.

What do you listen to on your iPod before competing? Techno.

Favorite movie: “The Lion King.”

Food you pig out on: Pancakes.

Favorite book: “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer.

Hobbies: Reading, watching movies, hanging out with friends.

Vehicle you wish you were driving: I don’t know. Any vehicle would be nice.

Person you most want to meet (dead or alive): Jane Goodall.

Most influential people in your life: Parents, coaches, teammates.

Future plans: To be an elementary school teacher.

Village NetMedia Sports Reporter Frederick Freudenberger can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail at