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PIAA-3A SWIMMING: North Penn girls win second state title in three years

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LEWISBURG >> On the Sunday before leaving for states, North Penn took part in an event hosted by the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which raises money for childhood cancer research.

North Penn participated under the name “Big Blue Wave,” which seemed awfully apropos, given the events that would soon transpire out at Bucknell University.

“I couldn’t be more proud of this entire program,” coach Jeff Faikish said as the PIAA Championships came to a close Thursday night. “Since we came in here, this was the ultimate goal. You could see on the pool deck the camaraderie between the boys and the girls and the divers. It was just one whole unit.”

The North Penn boys had risen to the runner-up spot in Class 3A earlier in the day, and the girls, for the second time in three years, captured the PIAA State Championship.

Said senior Megan Zartman: “Honestly, you’d think we’d be used to it by now, but it just gets better and better each time. It’s so fun.

“After such a long season, bringing it home at the end is the icing on the cake. And for my last year, it’s just great. It’s like the best thing I could ask for.”

The Knights’ 400-yard freestyle relay provided a heart-pumping finish for the North Penn girls, who won a back-and-forth battle with area rival Upper Dublin.

North Penn’s point total had climbed to a lofty 258, towering over the 203 by tough Avon Grove and the 168 by Governor Mifflin.

Claudia Thamm, a three-time medalist on Day One, led off the relay, freshman Kaelan Daly took the second leg, Zartman the third and Parker Schulz anchored it home.

“I don’t think my feet were on the bench for more than two seconds,” said Faikish. “It was an amazing race.”

Bringing It Home

The 400 free had perfectly encapsulated North Penn’s effort and resolve, and reduced Faikish’s voice to almost a raspy whisper. He said it best.

“Claudia’s leadoff leg was fantastic, followed by Kaelan Daly the freshman, showing some poise under pressure,” the coach said. “It was awesome. Megan Zartman going in there with a fairy-tale ending as a senior, fantastic split, and then Parker Schulz on the end.

“She was a little upset earlier in the meet but she brought it all back together and jumped a 50 point on the end of that relay.”

North Penn touched in 3 minutes, 23.85 seconds, about a half second ahead of Upper Dublin.

“You have Upper Dublin from District One on the one side, Governor Mifflin on the other side, and Avon Grove the silent sleeper,” said Faikish, who guided North Penn to a conference, district and state title this winter. “They all did a fantastic job.

“Those four girls were very motivated, we came in and won the medley relay, and right before the 400 free relay, I was very honest and said I’ve never had more faith than I do in this group in front of me.”

Zartman Shines

North Penn’s other big race Thursday was provided by Zartman, who surged to a silver medal in the 100 back (54.98).

“I am so happy. I really have been working on my backstroke basically my whole high school career and to get a silver on the podium, it makes me so happy,” she said shortly after the Knights emerged from a celebratory plunge.

“The relay was so fun. After working so hard on the season with the girls, I just love them to death. I’m so happy that we could bring it home in the end and do it for our team.”

The Knights began Day Two by placing three divers in the top four – Paige Burrell and Meghan Wenzel tied for first and Madalyn Freece earned fourth – and finished it with an exhilarating relay.

A week that started with a good cause – with Faikish and many of the NP guys sporting shaved heads from St. Baldrick’s – culminated with another ride on the roller coaster for the Big Blue Wave.

“It’s definitely bitter-sweet to be done,” said Zartman, who heads to West Virginia next year, “but I’m really happy with the way it ended. And I couldn’t be more proud of the rest of the girls on the team and I’m wishing them the best of luck for future years.”

Scott Goes Out On Top

Pennridge senior Morgan Scott, earning Swimmer of the Meet honors, raced to her second consecutive gold in the 100 freestyle (49.22), adding to the state-title three-peat she pulled off Wednesday in the 200 free.

Said Scott: “I couldn’t have asked for a better meet.”

In four PIAA Championship Meet appearances, the Indiana-bound Scott won a remarkable three state titles and a state silver in the 200 free, and two silvers and two golds in the 100 free.

State Standouts

Upper Dublin’s Abbie Amdor raced to bronze in the 100 free, recording a time of 50.06. In that same race, Wissahickon’s Carly Zlotnikoff was sixth, pushing to a 50.80.

Another Upper Dublin standout, Elle Braun, earned seventh in the 500 free, clocking a 5:00.50.

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