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Butler County spotlight athletes: March 23, 2014

| Saturday, March 22, 2014, 2:53 p.m.

Abby Jones

School: Knoch

Year: Sophomore

Sport: Swimming

Claim to fame: Jones placed second at the WPIAL championships and 15th at the PIAA championships in the 200 freestyle and 15th in PIAA meet in the 200 freestyle.

This was your second year advancing to the WPIAL and PIAA championship meets. How much did that experience help you?

I felt a lot more comfortable this year, and I kind of knew what to expect. It helped me a lot.

How happy were you to set the school record (1:57.42) in the 200 freestyle at the WPIAL championship meet?

I was really excited. Last year, I got the time I needed the week after high school season ended. I was really happy to get it during high school season this year.

What was the experience like at the state meet? It's a unique atmosphere, isn't it?

It is. It's really fun meeting all the new people. It's just a crazy experience. I almost feel like a professional when I'm there. It's cool to be there with the best swimmers in the state.

How much do you hope to improve the next two years?

I really want to be able to make it back to the state meet every year. I want to improve my times in the same events or in other ones. This year, I really liked the 200 freestyle. I think I just really figured out how to swim it and pace it. It's fun to have an event you can keep improving in.

Francis Folz

School: Mars

Year: Junior

Sport: Swimming

Claim to fame: Folz swam the anchor leg of the 400 freestyle relay that won PIAA gold and helped Mars clinch the PIAA boys Class AA team title.

What's it feel like to win a state championship?

It's honestly a blessing from God. I have been praying for His help all year. Practicing at 5:30 a.m., the mental toughness to get through the day of school, then eating, working out for my club team and repeating the cycle. It takes more than one person to pull that through.

How nice was it to clinch the team title with a win in the 400 freestyle relay?

We've been working hard in that event all year. You couldn't write a better ending to an amazing year. All year we've been trying to set records, and we have been setting them. The camaraderie between the four guys on that relay was really tight. We knew it'd take all four to pull it out. To cap it off with a come-from-behind win, it couldn't be written any better.

In order to win the team title, you guys just had to finish in eighth place in the 400 relay and be careful not to disqualify yourselves with a bad start. Are you guys sad you had to hold back a little and be extra cautious even though you still won it?

It's hard because we will never swim that race again with everyone. A win is a win. It's all the same at this point. Knowing that we could do better leaves a little on the table for next year.

Does the team have any celebration plans?

The team camaraderie is so great. We eat together, we talk together, we pray together. I think we'll get together as a team and do some sort of gathering, maybe go out to eat.

— Joe Sager

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