Penncrest’s Dickert fares fine in ‘her world’

RADNOR >> If the main metric of value for an individual accolade is the numbers of pictures taken and hugs doled out, then Madison Dickert’s medal ceremony strained the scale Saturday.

As she posed atop the podium at the Central League Championships, the Penncrest junior cast her mind back to where she was five months ago, recovering from a concussion that kept her out of the water for a month and to this day forces her to monitor her energy expenditure in workouts.

But the junior also considered what it took for her to get to the wall first in the 100 breaststroke Saturday, her time of 1:06.10 eking out friend and rival Grace Wakiyama by 0.43 seconds. It took a trip into her past, to last year’s states run, and to what Dickert refers to as her “own little world.”

“I just imagine myself winning,” Dickert said. “This is me, this is my event, it’s only me swimming. I close my eyes before my event and dive in, and most of the time I’m closing my eyes and just pulling, and I just keep going.”

Dickert admitted a dose of surprise at her time, more than two seconds quicker than her season-best of 1:08.30. The latter time is a reflection of the diminished workload and the creeping frustration as Dickert was limited to as few as 45 minutes in the water daily when she knew rivals would be putting in two or three times that.

Instead, Dickert aimed to get back to where she was last season, a stellar postseason that resulted in a pair of broken echelons — 1:06 at the District 1 Championships, 1:05 at states — to finish 15h at states in 1:04.91. She feared those numbers would elude her this season, but Saturday dashed those qualms.

“It definitely boosted my confidence in myself and my coaches in general because they’ve put me on a different schedule than anyone else,” Dickert said. “So it’s just really good knowing that they and I can do what I can do.”

The limitations in aerobic capacity have had practical benefits. Dickert separated herself from Wakiyama with a sensational final wall, going in nearly even and surfacing a body-length ahead. Those granular points of technique emphasized by coach Felicia Sloyer should pay dividends as Dickert regains strength. Dickert has also focused on the mental aspect, and she credits a pep talk with inspiring that Saturday.

“Today I got a little speech from my dad, and he was like, ‘you’ve been acting like the world owes you something; the world owes you nothing right now. You just have to go in and find where you were last year,’” she said. “So I came in, found where I was last year and I pulled it out.”

The Lions gleaned other hardware, with Claire Walsh third in the 100 free, Lindsay Cave fifth in the 500 free and Julia Colizzo third in the 100 backstroke. Cave, Colizzo, Shannon Jackson and Walsh earned fourth in the 400 free relay to book an automatic district cut.

But Dickert’s gold was special, for the journey as much as the destination.

“It was a moment that I didn’t think was going to happen,” she said. “I’m so proud of Grace, I think she did amazing. She’s just an amazing person to swim against because she’s an amazing competitor. Just to win this event means everything for me.”


Brendan Burns was far ahead of his competition Friday night, but still dismayed at the time of his 200 individual medley triumph.  In Saturday’s swim, thanks in part to a personal connection to a record-holder, the Conestoga junior removed all caveats.

The Conestoga junior demolished the field in the 500 free by winning in 4:34.54, downing the meet and Radnor pool record set in 1983 by Haverford’s Bob Gavin (4:40.92) by more than six seconds.

“It definitely was,” Burns said of the record’s importance. “I definitely was not as aggressive yesterday in my two IM as I was in the five free. I definitely wanted to go after it. … The record was definitely on my mind.”

Burns won the 200 IM with ease but fell .24 seconds shy of the meet mark set by teammate Brian McKenrick last year. For Burns, who has national short-course meters records in the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly, the 200 IM/500 free double was a way to branch out of his comfort zone and inject novelty to the weekend. Saturday, that meant plotting a more aggressive tack.

And the chance to claim a record that has stood for so long, belonging to a legend like Gavin, whose sister Burns trained under in his age-group days, provided an extra dose of motivation.

If the league champion Pioneers needed additional impetus in their final relay, Radnor provided it. The same squads that dueled for the 200 free title Friday, with the Raiders prevailing, renewed acquaintance in the 400 free. Burns split 45.82 off the front to put Conestoga ahead, but Kevin Ryle’s rally on the anchor leg led the team, with Owen Neuman and Oliver Brown, to win in 3:10.11. Radnor’s foursome — James El-Deiry, Patrick Cullen, Andrew Davis and Nick Mlodzienski — touched in 3:10.91.

“It was definitely a great way to finish,” Burns said. “The four free relay is definitely our best relay out of the three in high school, so the fact that we can win that relay and kind of get back at Radnor for beating us yesterday was definitely a nice way to end the meet.”

Cullen won the 100 free in 46.52, outpacing Strath Haven’s Will Resweber (48.07). Ryle won the 100 back with ease, his 52.71 far quicker than runner-up Jake Booth of Haven in 55.45.


For three years, David Abrahams and Matthew Bochanski have jousted for breaststroke supremacy at Haverford. Saturday, Abrahams struck a blow in that effort.

Abrahams won the 100 breast in 58.42 seconds with his teammate third in 59.59. Second was Ridley’s Alex Boeckx in 59.50.

“The objective was, I just wanted to take out the first 50 as fast as possible, and my only goal was to win,” Abrahams said. “I knew without a taper I wasn’t going to go a ridiculous time. I think it was a good race for me.”

Abrahams and Bochanski have been going at it for years for the honor of Haverford’s nominal “A” swimmer role and the scarcer spot on the 200 medley relay at districts. Abrahams has the inside line over Bochanski, a senior, in that department. But the duo knows that two weeks remain to resolve that competition, and that the denouement in the pool between the friends will be merit-based.

“It’s everything,” Abrahams said. “In practice we’ll always be going back and forth pushing each other. It’s been a blessing having him on the team the last couple of years.”


NOTES >> Collin Pettit of Haverford was second in the 500 with a time of 4:49.90. Third was Sean Adams, who made a huge leap to a District 1 auto cut in 4:51.00, a reduction of 12.78 off his seed. … Conestoga claimed two of the four girls events, with Madison Ledwith outkicking Garnet Valley’s Noelle DiClemente in the 100 free in 52.57. Sophia Poeta clocked in at 56.94 in the 100 back to best GV’s Catherine Weaverling. Garnet Valley avenged that in the 400 free relay, the squad of Weaverling, DiClemente, Anastasia Erley and Amy Townend topping Lower Merion by four seconds in 3:34.80. The Aces’ Anna Kalandadze won her third straight 500 free in 4:52.84, just off her meet record.

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