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Pioneer Athletic Conference’s best wait out storm to swim at Bucknell

Ask anyone.

The near-two-week wait between the District One Swimming Championships and the highly anticipated PIAA Championships can feel like an eternity.

This year? Try eternity and a day.

Mother Nature had her say in this year’s state championships to be held at Bucknell University, Winter Storm Stella forcing the competition to be pushed back a day as mounds of snow piled up across Pennsylvania during the week. Class AA action kicks off Thursday and finishes up Friday while Class AAA closes out the weekend with races on Saturday and Sunday.

Phoenixvillle’s Maddie Cooke

As opposed to previous years, which featured a morning preliminary heat to start each day, this season will feature timed finals only.

This year, seven of the 11 qualifiers from the Pioneer Athletic Conference will hit the blocks one last time to close out their senior seasons. Among them will be Methacton’s Emily Sykes and Phoenixville’s Maddie Cooke, the standout pair are each looking to make the trip back home with at least one fresh piece of hardware dangling around their necks from Kinney Natatorium.

Cooke heads up to Bucknell with seven PIAA medals to show (four gained her freshman year when Phoenixville swam Class AA). Sykes makes the trip with a pair of medals, including a silver garnered in last season’s 100-yard breaststroke.

“I am really looking forward to these last few days at Bucknell as if it’s a finale to my entire high school career,” said Sykes, a University of Tennessee commit. “At this point, I’m just trying to take it all in.”

Although they won’t end their scholastic careers in the water together, they’ll be closing it out in the same event.

Sykes enters this season’s 100 breast as the No. 5 seed after claiming fourth at districts with a 1:03.69. Cooke will have her work cut out for her. The Penn State University commit enters seeded at No. 9 after posting a 1:04.08 at districts. Under the new format, Cooke won’t compete in the ‘Final Eight’ heat, but still has a shot at earning a medal.

Think she’s up for the challenge?

“At first I was disappointed because I want to be with the best competition,” said Cooke, “but I know I can push myself and am just going to have to give it my all in my own heat. I am really relaxed and calm this week, which is when I perform best. So I am really excited regardless of my heat (and) seeding.”

In addition to the 100 breast, Sykes is seeded at No. 7 in this year’s 200 individual medley coming off a fourth-place finish at districts earlier this month.

“Best case scenario, I’ll leave with some new times and a bunch of great memories,” added Sykes. At this state meet, if I touch the wall with a smile and potentially a best time, I’ll be satisfied.”

Owen J. Roberts senior Morgan Hansen finished fourth in the 100 fly during the District One Swimming Championship on Thursday. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

Cooke is seeded 10th in the 50 free, coming off a bronze 23.92 seed time from states. She’ll also swim as part of the Phantoms’ 16th-seeded 200 medley relay along with Kathryn Bland, Emily Fabius and Katya Hayward.

Phoenixville junior Caroline Turner will represent the Phantoms in diving, where she is seeded 12th. Turner will be the first female representative from the Pioneer Athletic Conference since Methacton’s Samantha Lavrich made a splash at states in 2014.

Owen J. Roberts’ senior Morgan Hansen will be making her fourth consecutive trip to states where she is seeded ninth in the 100 fly and 22nd in the 200 individual medley. Though she has only claimed one individual medal — an eighth-place finish in the 100 fly during her sophomore season — Hansen could thrust herself into the mix in the 100 fly. Her qualifying time sits just .25 behind Gov. Mifflin’s Ava Enriquez for the No. 8 seed.

A brief look at the rest of the action across the PAC:

Boys Class AAA

The state championship will spell revenge for a pair of Boyertown seniors competing in the Class AAA competition as Ivan Escott and Patrick Lance surely have some unfinished business at Bucknell University.

Escott, who made the trek last year as an alternate but never once hit the water, is seeded 14th in the 100 fly and 26th in the 200 free. Lance is seeded 23rd in the 100 free and 29th in the 100 fly.

Lance has never made it out of the morning preliminaries, and will certainly have his work cut out for him this time around. Now that the morning prelims have been axed, it will simply be he against the clock.

“I’m ready for redemption,” he said earlier in the week.

Together, Lance and Escott will compete in Boyertown’s 400 free relay, seeded 20th with a qualifying time of 3:13.05.

Spring-Ford senior Noah Cancro enters his first trip to states seeded 26th in both the 50 free and 100 breast.

Boys Class AA

Pottsgrove’s Mikey Prior is looking to gain a little revenge of his own.

The senior just missed out on a trio medals last season, qualifying for the ‘B’ finals in the 200 free relay, the 100 back (where he finished ninth overall) and the 200 IM (14th overall).

This time around, he’s seeded seventh in the 100 back after claiming the gold at districts. Additionally, he’ll also be seeded 13th in the 200 IM, coming off a silver finish.

Prior will be joined by Falcon teammate Patrick Agnew, making his first trip up to Bucknell. The junior qualified with gold-medal finishes in the 50 free and 100 free. He’ll be seeded No. 19 and No. 30 in his respective events.

Upper Perkiomen sophomore Kyle Kovalenko will represent the Tribe as the No. 31 seed in the 100 breast after earning a time qualification. His seed time of 1:02.22 was just .10 ahead of the cut.

Girls Class AA

Noel Fresa will represent Upper Perkiomen in two events. The freshman enters states as the No. 19 seed in the 100 back and sits at No. 28 in the 50 free.



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