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Editorial: A salute to Berks County’s great winter athletes

High school sports fans relished the opportunity to enjoy a full return to a normal winter schedule this year as local student-athletes delivered another exciting season.

We congratulate all the young athletes in our community for coming out strong after two challenging years in a sports world compromised by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As is so often the case, Reading High School’s boys basketball team led the way. The Red Knights won their first Berks Conference title in three years and their first back-to-back District 3 championships since the 1970s. Reading High’s boys have won an astonishing 23 district championships.

Though the Red Knights fell short in their effort to repeat as state champions, their other titles and 26-4 record stand as a testament to their continued excellence. The team sets a great example for our community and represents it very well.

But Reading High was far from the only local success story in boys basketball, as 13 Berks teams qualified for the district playoffs and six made it to the PIAA tournament.

Berks Catholic earned a 23-5 record and reached the county and district finals. Antietam finished 20-6, won its first division title since 2015 and reached the district final. Fleetwood had a 16-8 record, winning a division title in the Tigers’ best season in decades.

Tulpehocken picked up its first District 3 win since 2007 and qualified for states for the first time in more than a decade. And Exeter made its first appearance in the District 3 playoffs in four years and qualified for the state tournament for the first time since 1999.

In girls basketball, Gov. Mifflin produced another season to remember. The Mustangs won their third county title in the last four years and fifth in the last eight.

Berks Catholic also had an exceptional season, advancing to the district final and earning a state playoff berth. Coach Bob Birmingham achieved reached 600 career victories.

Meanwhile Brandywine Heights enjoyed one of the best seasons in program history, qualifying for the county, district and state playoffs in the same season for the first time since 1980 and finished third in the District 3 playoffs

Twin Valley returned to the state playoffs for the fifth time in six years and won their third division title in as many years.
Schuylkill Valley achieved a stellar 20-1 regular season and won its first division title. The Panthers finished undefeated in league play.

Winter is a big season for individual sports as well. Standouts this year included PIAA wrestling medalists Tucker Hogan and Dean Houseer of Daniel Boone, Johnny Miller of Exeter and Charles Sheppard of Hamburg.

Perennial favorite Wilson won its sixth straight boys District 3 swimming title and took fourth in states. Gov. Mifflin senior Ben Gerhard took home gold in district and state competitions and helped the Mustangs finish third in the district team standings.

Among the other Berks boys state medalists were Wilson’s Takoda Heckman, Ian Metzgar and Chadd Corson and Exeter’s William Fanning.

The Schuylkill Valley girls, led by Megan Ehrfeldt, won a District 3 team swimming title for the sixth year in a row and took home a state championship. Emily Gao, Annie Gao and Jenna Kirby joined Ehrfeldt in winning the relay that sealed the Panthers’ victory. Oley Valley’s Mary Carl, Muhlenberg’s Sydney Gring, Exeter’s Megan Unruh and Lauren Ramsey and Wilson’s Emma Dougherty also took home PIAA medals.

And in indoor track, standout Wilson senior runner Caryn Rippey won two medals in the state championships. Berks Catholic’s Brady Mider took home a medal in the shot put.

It takes great dedication to excel as a high school athlete. It typically involves years of training, plenty of work even during the offseason and an ability to balance academic demands with the rigors of their sport. And most do it for the love of the activity rather than any expectation of a college scholarship or a professional career.

We salute the athletes who excelled this winter and look forward to what spring has to offer.

Source: Berkshire mont

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