GRATERFORD — With Methacton quickly emerging as a contender this season, the streaking Perkiomen Valley boys knew they were facing a serious threat to their three-year undefeated dual meet streak in a Pioneer Athletic Conference swimming showdown on Tuesday.
It briefly turned into a fight at the diving break, with the Warriors forging ahead on the strength of their divers.
It only fired up the hard-charging Vikings even more. A few minutes later they were back in command, regaining the lead, swimming on for the win.
The Perkiomen Valley boys, three-time defending PAC-10 champions, beat Methacton, 103-83, at the Perk Valley pool to extend the Vikings undefeated streak to 38-0.
But on the girls side, Methacton — the defending PAC-10 champion — easily beat the Perk Valley girls, 107-77.
And that was with the Warriors’ girls swimming the last event as an exhibition.
The Methacton girls were led junior Kirsten Groff, their proven leader. Groff came away with three wins, taking the 200 free, the 100, and swimming on the winning 200 free relay. Freshman Emily Sykes also had three victories, touching first in the 100 butterfly, the 100 breaststroke, and swimming on the winning 200 medley relay.
For the Perk Valley boys it was their usual duo of Kyle Dix and Wyatt Amdor leading the charge, with some timely help from Logan Thorneleo, who is quickly and aptly filling the distance hole left by former Vikings standout Seth Underwood.
Dix and Amdor each came away with four wins, while Thorneleo swam away with three.
Dix won the 50-yard freestyle and the 100 free and swam on two winning Vikings relays. Amdor won the 200 individual medley and the breaststroke and also swam two winning relays, as did Thorneleo who also won the 500 free.
And it was Dix and Thorneleo who gave the Vikings the lead after that short period following the dives where they trailed.
With the Vikings leading, 34-28, after the first four events, the Warriors took swept the Top 3 in the diving to take a 41-37 lead. Methacton’s Matthew Schulz then won the 100 butterfly (56.02) to stretch the Warriors lead to 50-44.
But then Dix took the 100 free, with the Vikings Bryce Groshardt placing second to make it all even at 55-55.
The next event, the difficult 500 free, was never a challenge as Thorneleo touched first to give the Vikings the lead again.
They never trailed again. Not that the Warriors made it easy. Each of those Vikings had to swim his heart out to preserve it. Under their new head coach John Welsh, a former standout freestyler at LaSalle High, the Warriors are a team to be reckoned with this season.
But veteran Perk Valley coach Jack Graham knows how to stay cool, and that’s without jumping in the pool, during a brief setback.
The Vikings charged out and won the 200 medley relay. The Warriors’ Colin Mansfield won the second event — the 200 free — followed by the Vikings’ Amdor winning the 200 IM. Dix then won the 50 free, before that lead shortly slipped away.
“They had some amazing divers,’ Amdor said. “Coach Graham talked to us and said that we had to stay focused and just come out in the second half, try our best and beat them.’
Asked if that undefeated streak is always on their mind, Amdor quickly said, “Oh, yes. That’s one thing we just don’t want to end. And Graham keeps reminding us that one slip away, and it’s gone. Everything has kept being perfect.’
Dix thrives on those challenging meets.
“I love when my teammates have close races, when I have close races,’ Dix said, his eyes lighting up. “I love touch-finishes. It gives you the biggest adrenaline rush. It just gets you so pumped and excited. It’s a great atmosphere.
“We were counting on that, their divers pulling ahead. We knew it would be really tight. We always have a little meeting after diving. We were saying to ourselves, if it’s going to be so close, we got to get the back end of the meet tight. Push the back-end so hard because we knew it was going to be this close.
“It was both swimming and diving that was on our minds. We’re all a team together, so it’s not just one, we all have to be perfect together. We all strive together, we all work together, we all have to be perfect together. The undefeated streak, it’s in our minds. But that’s not the most important thing because we take one meet at a time. Everyone is good until you beat them. You can’t think about the future or the past. It’s live in the present, right now.’
Thorneleo did treasure putting his team ahead for good in the 500 free at the halfway mark.
“It did mean a lot to me,’ he said.’I knew that’s what I needed to do coming into that race. But I can’t just take all the credit for it because my teammates all did their part. They knew we needed to do certain things coming into that race and we really did it. We swam as hard as we could and got as many points as we could.’
And the streak, “We’re really proud of, but I think we’re also doing a really good job not letting it get into our heads,’ Thorneleo said. “We treat every meet as an important meet.’
Graham admitted he was on pins and needles the entire meet.
“I knew from last year Methacton had a lot of talent,’ Graham said. “John Welsh has, obviously, done a really great job with that team. It got our attention, no doubt. It was very close. Our guys swam really tough when they needed to. And we have depth, and that really helped us. Our front swimmers, Wyatt and Kyle, are right up there with anybody. Logan is a close third. But also our guys in lane six, like Luke Waite, catching some points. I had one guy, Mike Nelson, swim three events in a row because that’s where we needed him.’
And the streak lives on.
“I don’t want to talk about that,’ Graham said, shaking his head adamantly.
For the Warriors girls, their streak also continues. They didn’t lose a PAC-10 dual last year en route to the championships and are now 2-0 for the season under nine-year coach Ben Yoder, also a former standout swimmer at W.C. Henderson.
Groff helped push the Warriors to the top of the PAC-10 last year, and isn’t about to let them slide back this year.
“I’m really excited about how I did today, how the whole team did,’ Groff said. “This was a really good day for everyone. I was so excited to see everyone on the team swimming fast. It was just an all-around awesome time. I’m happy.’
And Sykes may be a freshman, but she sure is a veteran swimmer.
“I’ve been swimming since I was four,’ Sykes quickly pointed out.
And, of course, she knows her Warriors are the defending champs.
“I wouldn’t say it puts on more pressure, but it definitely makes the team more excited and makes us swim fast,’ she said. “We were really excited to swim against PV. We knew we had to be on our A-game.’
For as long as Yoder has been there, the Warrior girls have been top contenders. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Anytime you swim against Perk Valley and Jack (Graham), you want to be prepared to swim your best,’ Yoder said. “No way did we expect this to be easy. It’s dangerous when you go into a meet expecting to win. I played baseball and I know you never go into a game thinking you’re going to win because anything can happen.
“Swimming is a little different, but still, you have to perform, have to have good starts, good turns. We have about 10 freshmen girls this year, which adds more depth. And we definitely have some sophomores and juniors that are stepping up.
“This meet is just another step. We’re trying to defend and, hopefully, we can perform the same way, if not better, next week when we swim against Owen J. Roberts. We really need everybody to swim their best next week.’
Owen J. Roberts is the Warriors top challenger this season. The Wildcats dealt them their last PAC-10 loss two years ago.
For the Perk Valley boys their next challenge is Boyertown. And no matter what, the Vikings always fear those Bears, as Graham quickly pointed out.
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