Versatile Kountroubis helps North Penn defend District 1-AAA title

Thanas Kountroubis’ gold-medal journey brought the senior back to where it all started.

“When he came in as a freshman, he thought he was a breaststroker,’ said Knights coach Jeff Faikish, following a very satisfying Friday evening for North Penn at La Salle University. “And then his sophomore year, he said couldn’t do breaststroke anymore so he was a distance freestyler for his sophomore and junior year. At Senior Champs in the summer, he figured out that he could swim breaststroke again, so it kind of opened the door for a lot of possibilities.’

The possibilities — and points — seemed to be endless for the Knights at last weekend’s District One Class AAA Championships.

“So many kids did so much better than they thought they could,’ Kountroubis said of North Penn’s 399-point effort en route to its second straight district crown. “We’re lucky enough to have another try at it at states. We’re thankful for the opportunity to try it again.’

Kountroubis helped lead a truly memorable performance by the Knights from beginning to end. Of the 12 events, including last week’s diving championships, North Penn received either a gold, silver or bronze in nine of the 12, including a pair of relay wins.

In addition, NP notched a second- and third-place finish in the same event, with the tandem of Mike Kern and Aidan Daly in the 500 free.

Kountroubis looked right at home in the breaststroke, both poised and polished.

“I’ve been given a lot of hardship for my stroke all year — just to be careful and everything, and I did my best,’ he said. “I tried to keep it as clean as possible. Thank God nothing happened, but all of us worked so hard for this, and it’s wonderful to come out on top.’

Kountroubis’ gold was one of four first-place finishes by the Knights, along with fellow senior Liam Kelly sprinting to a victory in the 50 free on Thursday.

“I couldn’t be more proud of this group of kids,’ Faikish said. “It was a total team effort led by a humongous senior class. It couldn’t have happened without great leadership by the kids.’

Kountroubis’ versatility was a constant throughout. Along with his heroics in the breaststroke, the senior earned silver in the 200 IM and helped push the medley relay to a gold on Day One before anchoring the 400 free team to silver on Day Two.

“He’s probably one of the hardest working kids I’ve coached in my career,’ Faikish said. “Hats off to him because he has certainly earned everything he has achieved to this point, and in the future as well.’

Stoked for states

The immediate future looks promising for the Knights and Maidens.

“It looks like there will be a good contingency of North Penn swimmers there,’ Faikish said of next weekend’s state championships at Bucknell University, on March 13-14. “We’ll see what we can do. It’s been a long season, and the ultimate goal is to make it to states and see what we can do there. So I’m excited.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous — I’m a little nervous too, but excited is the most important thing. I’m excited about how awesome these kids are and eager to see what they can do against state competition.’

Both NP squads are coming off balanced team efforts, as the Maidens racked up 306 points on their way to a third straight district crown.

“The big thing is having all three relays there and a bunch of individuals scattered throughout,’ coach Matt Weiser said of the state meet.

The Maidens are also creeping up on the school record in the 400 free relay. The foursome of Aimee Baur, Olivia DiStefano, Erin O’Neill and Kailyn Evans earned the silver at districts with their fastest time of the year, 3:27.93.

“(The record) is two seconds away,’ DiStefano said, “so we’re hoping to push for that at states. That’s always on my mind. And especially with these girls. I wouldn’t expect anything less from them. They always try their hardest and that’s what they did (at districts). I’m proud of every single one of them.’

Both teams now get some time to prepare for the big one in Lewisburg.

“We have a couple weeks to review what we need to change and fix, fine-tune some skills, and then hopefully hit the ground running at Bucknell,’ Faikish said.

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