North Penn dives into a state title
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TOWAMENCIN- This past weekend, six qualifying members of the North Penn diving team traveled to Harrisburg to compete in the PIAA Diving State Championship.
Senior and team captain Ian Boland Bintner, senior Bryce Hoch, senior Callie Smith, sophomore Paige Burrell, freshman Meghan Wenzel, and freshmen Maddie Freece helped to contribute towards a state title.
“North Penn is blessed with some pretty extraordinary student-athletes, some of whom just happen to enjoy launching themselves off springboards and orbiting around the record books,” explained coach Kyle Goldbacher. “The athletic skill and competitive prowess of our diving team can only be matched by each diver’s individual display of courage and perseverance.”
For the second consecutive year, the team has captured 4 of the 8 District One state qualifying spots, and all 4 of the girls reached the finals at States.
“This is impressive in and of itself,” said Goldbacher, “but when you consider the fact that we not only graduated last year’s state champion and PIAA record holder Marie Yacopino (SDSU), but we also lost our 10th place finisher from last year, Rachael Fisher, due to injury, it’s kind of like, you’ve got to be kidding me.”
Sophomore Paige Burrell brought home the gold as she won the Continental Girls for North Penn, beating all of her competitors with an impressive score of 555.30, just nearly missing the conference record.
“My performance was not perfect, especially in the beginning of the meet, but overall I couldn’t be happier,” said Burrell. “As a team I believe we had very strong performances, considering all four girls scored our swimming and diving team points, giving us the runner up title. I believe I need to improve on my entries and to be more consistent on my hurdles, but most importantly, be more confident with my harder dives.”
Burrell was 2nd as a freshman, and followed that up as a sophomore with her first State title. Never before in the history of PIAA diving has a school won back to back titles with two different athletes.
“With the strength of our freshmen, Meghan and Maddie, it will be very, very difficult for anyone other than NP to win a AAA Girls’ title for at least the next 3 years,” explained Goldbacher.
Senior Bryce Hoch set a pool and conference record Wednesday night, performing a Suburban One League Continental Conference best score of 586, as the Knights took the gold in both the boys’ and girls’ events for the fourth straight year.
“I felt that I dove exceptionally well, even though it wasn’t a first place finish, I fell short just four points shy of it,” recalls Hoch. “I’m just happy that I was able to spend my final season with the people I was with and my coaches who supported my diving career the entire way.”
The interesting part about their experience this year had to do with the snow a couple of weeks ago and the postponement of the events. In rescheduling the events, PIAA chose to separate the swimming and the diving events.
“In my opinion, this impacted us more so than any other team in the state,” Goldbacher says. “No program in the state has as cohesive a program between swimming and diving as does North Penn. While we were not able to travel together and share the ‘state championship experience’ as one, circumstances allowed the spotlight to shine directly on the divers, more so than usual.”
When looking ahead to their next season, there are high hopes for what’s to come in the future. The team plans on continuing to train hard and earn their school many more state titles.
On his hopes for next season, Goldbacher explained, “We are made up of high school All-Americans, Junior National finalists and college-bound D1 athletes. I look forward to the return of junior Rachael Fisher and the leadership that she will provide. Our triple threat water polo/swimmer/diver Abby Broadhead (freshman) will be back. Paige, Meghan, and Maddie will continue to grow and will collectively set a new team standard for high school diving, not just in our area, but nationwide. And… maybe, just maybe, there may be another very talented freshman girl joining the squad!”