North Penn enjoyed an overwhelming performance at the District One Class AAA Championships, with the biggest meet of the year still to come.
“Now that they’re rested they’re starting to see the fruits of their labors and their confidence is riding high,” Knights coach Jeff Faikish said. “But there’s a very long road ahead of us still.”
That road leads to Lewisburg and the PIAA State Championships, set for March 16 and 17 at Bucknell University (Class AA kicks it off on the 14th and 15th).
The Knights earned team titles on both the boys and girls sides at districts — the fifth consecutive for the girls and third in four years for the boys.
“It means a lot to the whole program,” boys and girls coach Jeff Faikish said. “With (former girls coach) Matt Weiser stepping down to pursue his other career, we were kind of left in a spot where we weren’t sure what we were gonna do.
“Fortunately we had amazing veteran coaches step in to help out with myself and Jason Grubb, Brian Faikish and Selma Robinson. This team really came together. At the beginning it was kind of a question mark — how are we gonna handle the new atmosphere on the deck. But I think that the kids really responded well.”
The Knights are sending a bevy of qualifiers to Kinney Natatorium, including Sean Faikish in the 200 IM (seeded second), diver Bryce Hoch (seeded first), and Noah Jamieson in the 100 fly (seeded fifth), along with three relays and a few other individuals.
Sean Faikish and Aidan Daly, following a memorable one-two finish at districts, are seeded sixth and seventh in the 500 free.
“All year long (Aidan and I have) been training together hard, every day at practice. We’ve had each other’s backs the whole way,” Sean Faikish said. “Going into states I have a lot of confidence — that time (4:33.59) puts me up there, but there are still plenty of other competitors out there that are way faster.
“So I gotta keep training, get back in the pool, train harder and get ready for states.”
The girls have also put themselves in a tremendous position for next week, the defending state champs poised for a possible three medals in the diving, including top seed Paige Burrell. Others seeded high for NP include Kailyn Evans (seeded first in 200 IM/second in 100 breast) and Claudia Thamm (sixth in 100 fly) as well as the three relay foursomes.
“I’m really excited for it. I can’t wait for another opportunity to go an even better time and place better,” said Megan Zartman, seeded sixth in the 100 back. “We had a lot of people make states so I’m excited to take a large group this year.”
From the newcomers to the veterans, the Knights are a driven group.
“We’ve seen these kids growing up,” coach Jeff Faikish said, “and fortunately with my position at North Penn I get to see these kids grow up through the North Penn Aquatic program.
“We had a bunch of kids out at Junior Olympics in York, and the cool part is that the kids are here on deck (at districts) are checking the times at J.O.’s and the kids at J.O.’s are texting me about the times they’re seeing here (at districts). It really is one united program.”
Top Photo: North Penns Sean Faikish competes in the Class AAA 500 Yard Freestyle during District 1 Championships at La Salle University on Friday, March 3, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)