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Chester County Press

Avon Grove achieves record-breaking season

02/24/2015 03:54PM ● By Steven Hoffman

Avon Grove swimming coach Kelly Burk knew that the arrival of a talented group of freshman swimmers promised good things for the 2014-2015 season.

But the squad’s accomplishments—numerous individual and team records, an undefeated regular season and Avon Grove’s first-ever championship in the Ches-Mont League’s National Division—exceeded everyone’s wildest expectations.

“These girls just went out and gave it their all in every event,” Burk explained in an interview on Monday.

Avon Grove opened the season with a 107-70 victory over Kennett on Dec. 8. Burk said that it was the team’s second meet, a Dec. 15 showdown against Henderson, that convinced her that the squad could be in for a very successful season. Avon Grove defeated the league rival 97-89, the first time that the team had ever scored a win against Henderson.

“That was a home meet and there was a lot of cheering going on,” Burk recalled. From that point on, fans were following the team’s progress closely as they rewrote the record books.

Avon Grove picked up wins over Downingtown West, 102-84, Downingtown East, 101-77, and Bishop Shanahan, 104-71.

Senior Carlie Perkins, the team captain, is one of the best divers in Pennsylvania, finishing fifth in states last year. She has rewritten the team’s record books, setting marks for 6 dives and 11 dives. Perkins broke her own school record for 11 dives at the Cumberland Valley Diving Invitational on Jan. 21. She is heading to North Carolina State in the fall after being selected as the 2014 Diver of the Year for the Ches-Mont League, and was a 2014 Speedo High School All-American. But first, she’ll have the opportunity to add to her accomplishments in the post-season.

“She’s been our captain and a team leader for the last two years. She’s a diver and swimmer, and she’s very versatile,” Burk explained, lauding Perkins’ work ethic and the example that she sets for other competitors on the team.

In a 108-75 victory over Perkiomen Valley on Jan. 23, Avon Grove was led by sophomore Emma Brinton and freshman Olivia Paoletti. Brinton won the 100-yard backstroke, the 200 individual medley, and was a part of the 200 medley relay team that helped lead Avon Grove past Perkiomen.

Brinton set a school record in the 100-yard backstroke during the season, and was one of the freshman swimmers who consistently produced good results for the team. Consistency is very important, Burk said, because it only takes one area of weakness to turn a win into a loss.

“I could always count on these girls to get points for us,” Burk said.

Consistency is important, but so is versatility.

Paoletti was a major asset to the team because of her ability to compete, and compete well, in different events.

“I could put her in any event I needed to,” Burk explained. “If there was an injury or if someone was out for a meet, I could put Olivia in and she would go get first or second for us.”

Paoletti was a valuable member of relay teams and broke two individual records.

Paoletti is just one of the fabulous freshman performers who have helped Avon Grove have its record-breaking season. Burk said that there are seven freshman on the squad, including four who have qualified for districts.

Clare McGovern is a top distance swimmer, and consistently delivered points in the 200 and 500 for Avon Grove. Serena Derderian was particularly good in the sprint events. Samantha Paglia was another key contributor, and Burk said that she was yet another versatile performer.

Boni Trinter, a junior, was one of the team’s more improved athletes this year. Trinter is a standout diver who would lead many teams.

“If Carlie {Perkins} wouldn’t have broken her own records this year, Boni would have broken some of those records,” Burk explained.

Burk said that she has also seen tremendous improvement from sophomore Natalie Slupe.

“She has really grown into a good competitor this year,” Burk explained. “She was very consistent in getting second, third, or fourth place finishes for us.”

The deep and versatile squad allowed Avon Grove to match up well against most of its opponents. Avon Grove completed the 9-0 regular season with wins over Coatesville, West Chester East, and Great Valley. They approached each meet with the same level of determination that they had early on against Henderson.

“It was just fantastic how the girls all came together as a team,” Burk explained. “They gave 200 percent at every meet. Their goal is to have every single school record broken during the course of this year.”

Burk is in her sixth season as the head coach. She is assisted by Chic McKnelly, who helped get the swimming program started in 1994. She said that McKnelly has been a big help as the coaching staff has worked to get the best performances out of the young team.

Burk said that she was looking forward to seeing how the team does against the strongest competition in districts and states. The team is extremely young, so finishing in the top five or six in districts and in the top ten at states would be a strong showing. Districts take place on Feb. 26 and 27, and the team should be well-represented in states when qualifiers are determined by March 1.

Because so many of the key contributors are young, this looks to be just the beginning for the talented squad.

“I’m so proud of these girls,” Burk said. “It’s great to see Avon Grove doing so well.”

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