Methacton’s Sykes, Phoenixville’s Cooke fittingly finish District 1 Championships

PHILADELPHIA >> Emily Sykes and Maddie Cooke crossed paths for the first time several years ago in a grocery store parking lot.

Over the years, they’ve bumped into one another on their way through the high school and club swimming ranks.

Phoenixville’s Maddie Cooke

And on Friday, the pair met in the pool for one of the final times as Day 2 of the District One Class AAA Championships wrapped up at La Salle University’s Kirk Natatorium.

Methacton’s Sykes and Phoenixville’s Cooke finished a respective fourth and fifth place in the 100-yard breaststroke, both earning automatic qualifying bids to the PIAA Class AAA Championships later this month at Bucknell University.

The sequential finish marked the end for both seniors’ four-year individual district careers, Sykes posting a 1:03.69 in the 100 breast with Cooke in tow at 1:04.08.

For their senior trips to districts, both have a pair of medals to show. Sykes dangled two fourth-place medals around her neck, including Thursday’s finish in the 200 individual medley. Cooke sported a bronze in the 50 free Thursday then followed that up with Friday’s fourth-place medal to bookend another chapter of the standout pair’s long-standing story.

“The first time I ever met Maddie, I think we were nine years old,” recalled Sykes, a University of Tennessee commit. “My mom and I were pulling into a Target, and we noticed a ‘USA Swimming’ magnet on the back of a car. Next thing we knew, we were all walking in at the same time talking about swimming with these people we’d never met before.

“Little did I know,” she added with a laugh.

Over the next several years, the two became very familiar, especially in the water. Both qualified for districts and states all four years of high school, with Cooke plowing her way through Class AA as a freshman before her team made the move to Class AAA her sophomore season. For their careers, Cooke ends as a 12-time district medalist (relays included), while Sykes finishes up with 11 total medals.

“It was an awesome way to end our last individual race,” said Cooke, a Penn State University commit of the 100 breast. “It was such a close field of girls, but it’s so cool that she (Sykes) and I got to end it against each other.”

Both were feeling quite reflective at the conclusion Friday.

“I’m so thankful that we made that move up to AAA,” said Cooke. “That pushed me so much harder. The challenge was definitely worth it.

“Each year has had its up and downs,” she added. “I remember last year I was really sick for this meet, so I’m happy just to be able to come out and close it out healthy.”

“It hasn’t really hit me now that it’s over,” said Sykes of the past four years. “Talk to me in about a week and maybe I’ll be able to put it into words. This is a really great atmosphere every year.”

The two will likely meet again in the same heat in the 100 breast at Bucknell. If the past several years have been any indication, their final meeting in the water will certainly be worth remembering.

Clock’s Ticking

Cooke and Sykes were the only two representatives of Pioneer Athletic Conference schools who earned automatic bids to swim at states on Day 2. There are still a few other others who will be watching as the district meets unfold around the rest of the state. The top five finishers in AAA action automatically qualify for states while only the top two in Class AA move on. The rest go to time considerations, based on their times as compared to the rest of the state.

In Class AAA action, Methacton’s Anna Price finished 13th in the 100 free with a 53.19 while Owen J. Roberts’ senior Laurel Fink was 17th with a 53.49. Boyertown’s Cara Megill was 13th in the 500 free with a 5:12.48.

As for Class AA, Upper Perkiomen freshman Noel Fresa took sixth in the 100 back, cutting over three seconds off her qualifying time. Teammate Bailey McCausland was sixth in the 100 breast, where she cut just over a second off her qualifying time with a 1:11.82. Together, McCausland and Fresa swam the third and anchor leg of the Tribe’s fourth-place 400 free relay, which finished up at 3:46.63. The contingent, which also included Maddie Modugno and Jayme Fisher, cut nearly 12 seconds off its qualifying time.

Big Picture

In Class AA action, Villa Maria Academy claimed its 16th straight District 1 championship. The Hurricanes finished with 547 team points, followed by Nazareth Academy (343) and Springfield-Montco (270). Upper Perkiomen finished in sixth with 130 points while Pottsgrove was 10th with 19.

North Penn won its fifth straight Class AAA title, the Knights claiming first with 305.5 team points. Avon Grove was second at 259 while Upper Dublin (229), Conestoga (158) and Unionville (149) closed out the top five. Phoenixville finished ninth with 79 team points, while Methacton (66) finished 11th and Owen J. Roberts (45) was 19th.

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