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Positive outlook empowers Penncrest’s Dickert in comeback

PHILADELPHIA >> Madison Dickert spent her sophomore season at Penncrest playing catch-up. After a concussion in a lifeguarding class in late-summer robbed her of valuable preseason training, Dickert still hoped she could produce days like Friday.

But until she went out and swam at the District 1 Championships, she wasn’t quite sure.

Dickert banished all doubt by trimming more than three seconds off her seed time to take ninth place and a possible states berth in the 100 breaststroke at La Salle University’s Kirk Natatorium.

Dickert’s time of 1 minute, 5.78 seconds was second in heat three of seven — trailing Aly Breslin of Upper Dublin — and faster than all but one of the next 12 times turned in. She even edged a swimmer from the fastest heat to rise to ninth. Her time is more than a second faster than the final at-large states bid a season ago.

“I was extremely surprised,” Dickert said. “I knew I had it in me to do that, but I didn’t think I would do it. I’ve worked really hard all season just to get back. … I’ve been trying really hard to stay positive and I just wanted to know that I did everything I possibly could in the meet.”

Positivity played a huge role in Dickert’s arduous path. She finished 27th at districts last year with a top time from Centrals of 1:09.71. But she was mired in the 1:11 range early this season, missing out on the December training peak most get ahead of club nationals.

Those days seemed distant Friday. Dickert credits part of the transformation to her club training at Suburban, but also to the positive atmosphere Penncrest coach Felicia Sloyer fosters.

“She’s one of my favorite people,” Dickert said. “She’s one of the most positive people to have around, and she’s probably given me the most support in all of this outside of my family.”

Times still have to shake out statewide, though Dickert is comfortably under the 1:06.83 that earned passage to Bucknell last year. Getting to states would be a major milestone.

“It would be amazing if I were able to go,” Dickert said. “But at the same time, if I don’t, I know the girls who would go are really fast and deserving of it. But if I got to go, it would mean the world to me.”

Ridley’s Gab Rudy finished sixth in the event in 1:04.94, within two tenths of the Delco record set by Episcopal Academy’s Sarah Baturka in 2016 (1:04.72).

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Springfield senior Georgia Apostolu could’ve watched her states hopes hinge on times around the state after she finished 13th in the 200 individual medley Thursday. Or she could’ve gone out and controlled her fate in the 100 backstroke Friday.

She opted for the latter, finishing second in 56.06 seconds.

“I wasn’t really happy with my swim yesterday, so I just really wanted to get after it today,” Apostolu said. “… It’s a big relief. I’m very happy.”

Apostolu entered as the second seed behind Conestoga’s Caroline Famous. The freshman phenom started quickly but faded late as Apostolu closed the gap, still winning in 55.43.

“It definitely helped because she’s so fast, so I just tried to stay as close as I could with her because I know she goes out really fast,” Apostolu said.

Famous, who won the 50 freestyle Thursday, was named most outstanding swimmer of the 3A meet.

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Speaking of Central League pace-setter, Madison Kolessar didn’t race Lower Merion’s Anna Kalandadze two weeks ago in the 500 free. But the Garnet Valley freshman used the Ace’s quick time as a guide Friday, taking second in the final heat and third overall in 4:58.70.

“I would’ve liked to have gone a little faster, but I looked at my splits and I know what I did wrong and I know what I can work on to do better at states,” said Kolessar, who finished fourth in the 200 free.

Summer Martin secured the other automatic states trip among the Delco contingent, the Strath Haven senior finishing fifth in the 100 free in 51.74 seconds.

Claire Walsh of Penncrest and Julia Cullen could join her at states. Walsh tied for seventh in 52.34 seconds, while the Radnor junior Cullen took 10th in 52.73. The final at-large for states last year clocked in at 52.83.

Strath Haven’s 400 free relay led the way in 11th, with Garnet Valley a spot back. Haven also was the top Delco school in the team scoring, finishing 13th with 50 points, one spot ahead of Garnet Valley (50).

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