POTTSTOWN — There was just so much about Bucknell University Maddison Marcheskie could not resist: Division I swimming program, academic excellence, idyllic campus, not too far from home.
Sure, first Marcheskie thought maybe she should finally chose a different route than older sister Lyndsey, who signed on with Bucknell two years ago and is now one of the Bisons standout swimmer. Then Maddison remembered how much fun the two always had together in the pools.
Marcheskie, The Hill School's standout in swimming and water polo, has signed a national letter of intent to continue her academic and athletic career at Bucknell University.
"I wanted to swim Division I, but I wanted to find a school where swimming and my academics would be a good balance,' she said. "(Bucknell) is one of the best liberal arts schools in the nation and they also have a really good swimming program.'
She has not yet decided on a major, but does plan to go in the direction of psychology.
Marcheskie set individual records in the 100 backstroke and the 50 freestyle, and swimming on the school-record setting 200 medley relay and the 200 free relay at Hill for the past three years. Also a standout on the Pottstown YMCA team and The Mercury's All-Area Girls Swimmer of the Year in 2012-13, Marcheskie had plenty of offers from top universities.
She eventually narrowed her final three to Bucknell, the University of Connecticut, and Towson University, all with excellent swimming programs.
"I picked Bucknell because it was the perfect school for me,' she said. "It's the perfect size and it's a beautiful campus. Out of all the schools I visited, there is no other campus I loved more than Bucknell.
"And coach Schinnerer (Bucknell coach Dan Schinnerer) was the best coach to talk to, the easiest coach to talk to. I really felt a connection with him when I talked to him. I didn't contact him, he contacted me. I was really excited when he did because Bucknell is a great school, so I definitely knew it would be a consideration.'
It wasn't the college route Marcheskie had initially envisioned.
"I didn't really think I was going to go to college with my sister,' she said. "I did want to try to do something different. But after visiting all the colleges, there was just nothing I liked better. So, the whole sister thing aside, Bucknell is the place where I want to be.'
And it will be nice to have family there, Marcheskie now feels.
"When I went up for my official visit, having her there was a lot of help,' she said. "It made me a lot more comfortable. And now that I know I'm going there, I'm very excited with the transition knowing she is there.'
And since Maddison's best event is the backstroke and Lyndsey's the butterfly, they won't go head-to-head in their specialties. The freestyle, which they also both compete in, is another matter. And Maddison did start doing the butterfly too last season. It could turn into quite a Marcheskie showdown come fall.
"Being sisters, we're always going to be competitive,' Marcheskie said. "In the pool, when we were practicing, we always wanted to beat each other. But it was good competitiveness.'
And it will certainly makes it easier for the parents, Diane and Craig Marcheskie, to watch them both in one place.
"I didn't pick the school because of my parents, but they are excited that they won't have to split up every weekend to go and see different meets,' Marcheskie said.
Their parents have been there cheering them on since their toddler days at the North End Swim Club, through all their Pottstown YMCA and Hill School years. And not because they were living the sports careers they never had through their kids. Craig Marcheskie was a standout quarterback at St. Pius X in his days, Diane Marcheskie an equally standout in basketball, field hockey, and lacrosse at Pottstown,
But Diane's side of the family was also always into swimming so it came only naturally to take the kids to the pool at a very young age. And even though the family was living in Reading until Maddison was 3, to the North End pool they always came because that's where they always belonged since Diane Marcheskie's mom was a member there.
When the family moved back to Pottstown it was to within a five-minute walk from the North End pool and Lyndsey and Maddison really started spending all of their summer days there.
"I believe every kid should try to join a swim team because it's just so much fun, especially in the summer,' Marcheskie said. "It's one of the sports where you can have fun, be with friends, practice and get better at something. We didn't have any lesson when we were younger, we just kind of jumped in.'
It came just as naturally to also swim at the Pottstown YMCA under head coach Kathy Cook.
Tall and lanky, the backstroke has always been Marcheskie's specialty, though she excels in nearly every other stroke.
"Maddison is the best aquatics athlete to come through The Hill in my five years here, and arguably the best female aquatics athlete in school history,' said Hill head swimming coach Jay Spencer. "In addition to holding the most school records, she is a two-time captain. The fastest swimmer isn't always the captain, but Maddison is a natural leader. She brings the perfect blend of talent and leadership. She has her favorite events, but is always willing to do whatever helps the team, and is more interested in the overall success of the team than she is personal glory.'
Not only at The Hill, but also on the Pottstown YMCA Seahawks team to this day.
"It was never a question for me to leave the Y team,' she said. "Everybody on our team there, we've been swimming together since we were young, we're all best friends, our coaches are great.
"Kathy (Cook) has been my coach since I've been younger and has a special place in my heart. She not only taught me how to swim, work hard, and push myself, but she teaches her athletes the importance of morals, having a good attitude, and sportsmanship. I owe a lot to her when it comes to a lot of my success, in and out of the pool.'
Both Lyndsey and Maddison started in the Pottstown School District then moved on to The Hill School after eighth grade.
"I applied to The Hill for two main reasons,' Marcheskie said. "The primary reason is The Hill's academic reputation, but additionally I wanted to come to The Hill because they have a swimming program, and Pottstown High School does not. I wanted to have the high school swimming experience.'
Always in love with swimming, and never even considering another sport, Marcheskie shocked even herself when she also fell in love with water polo at Hill.
"I play water polo because I love water polo,' she now says. 'At first it was to stay in shape and because I had to do a second sport when I came to Hill. I picked water polo because that made sense. And there is absolutely nothing I would change about water polo in the past four years. One of the best things about coming to Hill is playing water polo. I liked being part of a team. Swimming is more individual. It's still a team sport, but water polo you have to rely on your teammates. I'm an aggressive person. Swimming you can get your aggression out, but I was able to even more so in water polo,' she said with a smile.
Not surprisingly, she instantly became the Blues' standout water polo player as well, setting the school scoring record along the way. After scoring 21 goals her first season she racked up 279 over the next three years to finish with exactly 300 for her career, shattering the previous Hill record of 223.
"Our last game was really hard for me,' she said. "It was one of the hardest days of my life, hard saying goodbye to something I had come to love so much.'
Still, swimming remains Marcheskie's top priority.
"I'll always be in love with swimming more, it has a bigger place in my heart just because I've been doing it for so long,' she said. "It helps that swimming at the (Pottstown) Y is so much fun because I'm with my best friends and my coaches are great.'
It would be difficult playing two D-I sports at Bucknell, she pointed out.
"But it's always a possibility,' she said. "Right now I'm just swimming. The coach is pretty open to letting me play if I wanted to. We'll see at the end of the year.'
As for her college goals, "I want to really contribute to the team,' she said. "Winning a conference championship, making it to NCAA as a relay team, getting points toward a championship means the most to me.'
But first there is one more season to go for the Blues. And Marcheskie will definitely try to better her records already up on The Hill School's Cunningham Pool board.
Follow Rosemarie Ross on Twitter @RoseRoss31