DLN Girls Swimming All-Area: Burk turning Avon Grove into regional power

Kelly Burk is happy her swimmers are getting noticed when they walk the halls of Avon Grove High School. Winning division titles and having individual gold medals would do that for you.

The one other thing it would do is to have the person who leads them being noticed too. And so, Burk, for the second straight season, has bee named the Daily Local News All-Area Coach of the Year.

The Red Devils already came into the 2015 season with a target on their backs, with the girls defending their Ches-Mont League National Division title. Avon Grove handled the pressure with aplomb as the girls ripped through season unbeaten with a 6-0 mark to repeat. The boys, meanwhile, finished 5-1 and tied with West Chester Henderson for first.

“I don’t know if we felt pressure,” said Burk. “But, once we got past Henderson and Downingtown East, we relaxed. Then we started focusing on states.”

Of course, the girls were led by super sophomore Olivia Paoletti, who won a pair of gold medals at the District 1 meet at La Salle and states at Bucknell.

Backed by talented cast of younger swimmers, including the emergence of freshman Rabea Pfaff, the girls finished second in the team standings in the district behind powerful North Penn, and followed that up with a fourth-place result in states.

The boys also had a strong showing, behind senior Justin Carey.

Burk pointed to the team’s closeness as part of the reason for the runaway success.

“They are almost like one team,” she said. “The boys did an awesome job, and everybody stayed positive. They were really a close knit group during the season.”

One of the unsung contributors was diver Boni Trinter, who took over for Carlie Perkins. The former gymnast stepped in nicely and became one of the better divers in the league.

With the emphasis shifting more from a coaches decision in the dual meet to the swimmer having more of a say in the postseason, Burk explained the difference between the two.

“In the dual-meet season, I have more of a responsibility picking a lineup and be in more attuned to matchups,” she said. “In districts, they pick their events. I’m more of a cheerleader, giving them motivation.”

And with the stress of the state meet closing in, Paoletti appreciated that part of the coach’s job.

“She helped calm my nerves,” she said. “I can talk to Kelly about anything. She sees me race a lot and gives me little tips that are very helpful.”

Burk was also a gymnast as a child before turning to swimming after having knee problems. She swam at Downingtown, then went on to Shippensburg.

She was working as a paralegal, then began to start a family when the coaching fates interceded.

“I got back into coaching when Chick McNally asked me to help out at Avon Grove,” she said. “Then, when he got tired of the paperwork, I took over.”

In her seventh year on the job, Avon Grove is becoming a mainstay on the scene, and Burk is grateful of the support she gets from the school.

“It’s nice that the kids get noticed when they walk around with their jackets on,” she said. “Our AD (Vanessa Robitson) really tries to help and has come to meets. Getting the recognition is nice to see.”

With all the main contributors for the girls returning, the Red Devils should again be a strong contender for the National title next year, but first, Burk is going to let this historic season sink in.

“I’m going to try not to think about next week until September or October,” Burk said.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply