Often times in sports there is a profound emphasis on winning teams, star players and successful coaches.

But what sometimes goes unnoticed, especially at the high school level, is how sports can create life long friendships. Sports can bring together a group of individuals in ways that other things in life just cannot duplicate, mostly because it takes an entire group effort to achieve greatness.

Two advocates for how sports can create strong friendships are Tamaqua 1,000-point swimmers Joann Butkus and Miranda Amey. The two have been swimming together since their youth and it's their strong bond that has helped the Lady Raiders capture the Schuylkill League Championship this season.

"Joann is my absolute best friend and there is no doubt that the sport of swimming brought us that close," said Amey. "We've been swimming together since we were kids and it's always been something we really enjoyed."

Obviously, the Lady Raiders' success this season can be chalked up to them having a talented team, but Amey expressed that this year's squad is closer than any she had been a part of in the past.

"I think the difference this year is how close the entire team is," said Amey. "We really are like a family and I think that gave us the extra push we needed. Everybody gets along and supports one another, and that's vital when it comes to achieving your team goals."

Butkus and Amey also have another attribute that is often overlooked in the world of sports, and that is unselfishness. The two swim wherever head coach Ashley Stanek needs them to in order for the team to win and they both welcome the challenge.

"They're both such versatile swimmers and basically they swim wherever we need them," said Stanek. "It all depends on who we are matched up with that day and what events I think we need to win. Whatever those events are, that's where they swim."

Stanek also stressed the fact that their strong friendship and passion for the sport of swimming has trickled down through the ranks, which is something she believes helped them capture a Schuylkill League title this season.

"With Joann and Miranda being seniors I knew they were going to be strong leaders for us," said Stanek. "I also think that the rest of the team saw how strong of a friendship they have and how successful they've been, so naturally they've all wanted to emulate that. They've been such great role models for our underclassmen, which will only help us in the years to come."

As noted, both Butkus and Amey have topped the 1,000-point plateau in their career with Butkus reaching the feat last season and Amey this season. Friendship has not only made the sport of swimming fun for the two seniors, but quite frankly it's also made them good. Imagine training with your best friend each and every day and that friend being just as talented as you are. The odds of success are pretty high.

"There is no doubt that we push each other," said Amey. "We train a lot together in the off-season and we both swim for the Schuylkill YMCA team as well, so we're always in the water. Then when we're not doing that, we lift after school."

Next up for Butkus, Amey, and the rest of the Tamaqua swim team are the District 11 Swimming Championships on Friday February 28 and Saturday March 1 where the two hope to perform well enough to advance to state competition.

"Joanna and Miranda were both at states last season, so the possibility is there for them to advance," said Stanek. "They're both extremely focused and I expect good things out of them on those days."