GRATERFORD — Kyle Dix and his Perkiomen Valley boys swim team had one dominating goal this season: save the best for last.
The Vikings and the rest of the local qualifiers will look to do just that and really shine at the PIAA Championships at the Bucknell University’s Kinney Natatorium this week, beginning with Class AA on Wednesday and Thursday before Class AAA on Friday and Saturday.
In many ways, the plan already worked.
The Vikings qualified as many swimmers and events for the Class AAA boys meet as the rest of the Pioneer Athletic Conference boys AAA schools combined.
Dix, a senior, leads his Vikings and the local league’s Class AAA boys as the highest qualifier, seeded seventh in the 100-yard freestyle and eighth in the 50 free.
The two Vikings freestyle relays also qualified and pretty high, with the 200 free relay seeded 11th, and the 400 free relay seeded 12th. The Vikings Logan Thorneloe also qualified in the 200 free (26th). Dix and Thorneloe both swim on those two relays while Bryce Groshardt and Michael Melissen round out the foursome.
“With our new head coach (Brian Zeigler), it was a little bit different this year,’ Dix said. “We didn’t rest even a little bit for any meet of the season. Maybe that backfired a little bit when we lost to Owen J. and Coatesville. However, it’s going to pay off, and much more than it ever has, when we do a lot better than we ever have at states.
“I’m sure other teams had little rests, tapers here and there. With us not resting for anything, our guys are going to swim fast at states. I’m excited.’
All those no-rest meets were not without a couple of bumps and bruises. The biggest one was having their incredible 52-dual meet winning streak snapped by Owen J. Roberts midway through the season, and then suffering another close loss to Coatesville a couple of weeks later.
It hurt, but the Vikings moved on, concentrating on the District 1 meet, and now states.
Dix came into the District 1-AAA meet the top seed in the 50 free and the No. 2 seed in the 100 free, finished at third in the 50 free, and matched his second seed in the 100 free with a silver medal. He might have gotten the gold in both had he tapered (decrease his training regimen in the leadup to the meet).
“Me and my coaches had a long talk about whether I wanted to taper for districts,’ Dix said. “After seeing my seedings, I figured I would probably be able to get top five and get my automatic spots for states and then taper and, hopefully, do very, very well at states.
“It’s hard to do a double-taper so close together. So my coaches and I talked about that and figured it would be best if I didn’t taper.’
The rest of the team did finally taper for districts as per game plan. Zeigler, a longtime assistant to former veteran Vikings coach Jack Graham and now head coach this year, decided on the no-rest during the regular season because he wanted to give his swimmers their best chance for low times at districts.
“Our core group of boys are all seniors,’ Zeigler said. “They had won 52 consecutive dual meets, they won three PAC-10 titles, and three Ches-Mont titles. I felt that we needed to do everything possible to let Kyle finish as high as he possibly could in the states meet.
“I felt I owed it to all of the other swimmers to see how fast they could go at districts before they ended their high school career.’
It paid off at districts. All the seniors swam their fastest times, with Thorneloe swimming a personal best in the 200 free while qualifying for states for the second straight year.
But Dix, his coach figured, didn’t need a break yet, and could save his best for states.
“After not tapering for districts, I’m happy I have a good seed,’ Dix said. “Just getting to states is a big deal. The seeding isn’t really concern me much right now, I’m mostly focused on having a good prelim swim there so I can get back to finals, which would be awesome. I’m excited.’
Facing off against the best swimmers from all of Pennsylvania is, after all, the highlight of each season. And making it to the final eight, or the final 16, which includes the consolation finals, is every top swimmer’s dream.
Dix put a priority on making sure it was a PV party at Bucknell during districts.
“I was really focused on getting my relays to states, helping them get good seeds because I really wanted them there again,’ he said. “It’s always nice to have a lot of people up there with you. And the more people I could help get involved with states was my goal. I wanted to have most of my teammates up there too. And we did it.’
It has been quite a ride for Dix since his first trip to states as a sophomore. In the regular season this year, Dix literally dominated the PAC-10, posting the fastest time in all but one event — third-fastest in the 100 backstroke (54.97) — tops in the 200 free (1:43.07), 200 IM (1:55.17), 50 free (20.80), 100 butterfly (51.83), 100 free (46.49), 500 free (4:50.19) and the 100 breaststroke (54.97),
He also was part of the Vikings’ three relays that posted the second-fastest times this season.
Since he will also swim on both qualifying Vikings relays, it is going to be a busy two days for him.
“Last year, I also swam eight times, including prelims,’ he said. “So it’s going to be another long two days. But, it’s definitely worth it. And you really don’t get tired when you have adrenaline pumping that much.
“This is Perk Valley’s year to shine in the pos-season, the time for us to do well.’
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Phoenixville sophomore Maddie Cooke leads the Class AAA area girls as the highest seed at ninth in the 100 breaststroke, and 10th in the 50 free … The Owen J. Roberts 200 medley relay is the highest overall girls seed at eighth. … In Class AA boys, Pottsgrove junior Kevin Basch is the highest seed at fifth in the 500 free … In Class AA girls, Pottsgrove’s Emily Glinecke is the local’s highest seed at second in the 100 breaststroke and fourth in the 200 free.