North Penn boys, girls race to District 1-AAA titles

PHILADELPHIA >> They were basically each other’s shadow.

“I saw him the whole time,” North Penn’s Sean Faikish said of teammate Aidan Daly, speaking of their blockbuster 500-yard freestyle on Friday. “Aidan and I, training together, pacing together every day at practice.

“We’ve had each other’s backs the whole way. And I’m just glad we went one-two, finished the way we did.”

“Sean and I have been practicing together since we were five,” Daly echoed. “It’s been a long time…”

Faikish and Daly won gold and silver in the 500 free, perfectly capsulizing North Penn’s tight stranglehold on the District One Class AAA Swimming and Diving Championships.

The Knights racked up 302.5 points, finishing atop an impressive fast five that included Conestoga (180), Hatboro-Horsham (178), Upper Dublin (171) and Souderton Area (163). It finished off a dominating sweep by North Penn, as the girls rolled to their fifth straight district crown earlier in the day.

What many called the “race of the day,” Faikish and Daly pushed each other to the brink of the district record.

“That was a great race. I’m sure watching it was probably a lot better than swimming it,” kidded Daly of the meet’s longest, most draining event. “The competitive nature of that swim was great.”

Additional trips to the medal stand came from North Penn’s Ryan Hartmann (8th, 100 back), Ryley Fein (fifth, 100 breast) and the 400 free relay team of Noah Jamieson, Hartmann, Daly and Faikish (silver).

The Knights scored 37 points in the 500 free alone. Kennett’s Emils Jurcik gave chase but at the end it was Faikish and Daly, with barely enough room to swipe a credit card in between.

“The battles that go on at practice are awesome at times,” Knights coach Jeff Faikish said of the duo, who finished 4:33.59 and 4:33.60. “The coolest thing about those guys is that neither one cares who got first, who got second.”

The team title was a different story — North Penn wanted No. 1.

“To me, it means everything,” Daly said. “Last year we didn’t win and my freshman year we did win. So it was great to come out here and win, especially since my freshman year I wasn’t really part of the team — I was just a freshman.

“But this time,” Daly said, “I scored some points and felt more of a part of it.”

That makes it three titles in four years for the Knights, who not only produced one strong swim after another but also provided the packed house at Kirk Pool the most thrilling finish of the evening.

“It was amazing,” coach Faikish said of the 500 free. “From the fact that I’ve been coaching Aidan Daly from the time he was a child, to my nephew, the two of those kids going back and forth.

“And Emils from Kennett, you can’t count that kid out. Because if it wasn’t for the third kid being there, I don’t know if this race would have been as exciting. Emils was a fantastic swimmer, at states last year in the 500, so the heat that they swam in was no joke.”

North Penn’s Noah Jamieson competes in the AAA 400 Freestyle Relay during District One boys swimming championship at La Salle University on Friday, March 3, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

Hatboro-Horsham’s Andy Thomas raced to another gold on Friday, winning the 100 breast to help power the Hatters to third as a team.

Upper Dublin’s Alex Flynn wore a silver medal after the 100 free and then joined Kyle Pro, Matt Jensen and Kornel Pesti for a bronze in the 400 free relay.

Souderton Area’s Cristian Musterait (100 free) and Storm Krader (100 back) know their way to the medal stand — they were each bronze medalists in their events to power Big Red to No. 5 in the district.

Meanwhile in Class AA, Connor Killion had two more golds around his neck by meet’s end, his wins in the 100 back and 400 free relay (teaming up with Colin Shipp, Tommy Lutter, Chris Kelly) notched him Swimmer of the Meet honors and drove Lower Moreland to its third straight team title.

For the North Penn girls, the season’s path always ends with a plunge.

“The practices have been really hard and it’s super long as always,” said North Penn spark plug Megan Zartman, moments after her team emerged from its annual celebratory dip into La Salle’s Kirk Pool, “but it was just really great to have it pay off at the end.”

The Knights piled up 305.5 points, medaled in all five events on Friday, and got another record-setting swim from Kailyn Evans.

Evans’ time of 1:02.92 broke the 100 breast record, and it was second only to Avon Grove’s Olivia Paoletti, who broke her own meet record with a 1:02.27.

North Penn’s 400 free relay team of Claudia Thamm, Parker Schulz, Zartman and Evans finished things off fast, grabbing silver in the final event of the morning with a 3:26.70. Zartman added to the bronze she captured earlier in the 100 back.

“I was really looking forward to the chance to be rested and to really get up and race,” Zartman said. “So we were all really excited and we had a lot of really good times. Great energy and a lot of fun.”

The Knights and coaches celebrated afterwards with one hand raised, all digits extended, signifying the number five.

“Every year I’ve been on the team we’ve won a district title,” Zartman said, “so we’re just really trying to keep the tradition going.

“We don’t think about it too much (during the season) — it’s kind of a big plus at the end,” she said. “We all wanna work together and go our best times.”

Said coach Faikish: “The girls team is unique in itself. We’ve seen these kids growing up.”

Upper Dublin rose to the third-place spot in Class AAA, powered by gold-medal swims by Abbie Amdor (100 free) and the 400 free relay (Amdor, Laura Pendleton, Elle Braun, Jenna Johns) on Friday.

Pennridge’s Morgan Scott added a silver medal on Day Two, racing to a 50.58 finish in the 100 freestyle.

Gwynedd Mercy Academy’s Stephanie Szekely distinguished herself as Swimmer of the Meet in Class AA, winning her second gold of the meet with a victory in the 500 free. She broke five minutes, going 4:59.98.

Teammate Annie O’Dare also followed through with another gold, taking the 100 breaststroke. The Monarchs drove to the No. 4 spot in Class AA, compiling 269 points and finishing behind only Springfield-Montco (270), Nazareth (343) and champion Villa Maria (547).

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