LEWISBURG – Olivia Paoletti and her coach, Kelly Burk, agree that the Avon Grove senior heaps a lot of pressure on herself. But midway through the 2018 PIAA Girls Class 3A Swimming and Diving Championships, nobody would dare second guess Paoletti’s methods.
A two-time state champion in the 200-yard IM heading in, Paoletti made it three straight on Wednesday at Bucknell’s Kinney Natatorium. With a huge target on her back, Paoletti once again thrived amidst the pressure to extend her dominance in the event.
“I am definitely my biggest critic,” Paoletti acknowledged. “I put pressure on myself because I want to do well and represent my team and my school.
“It is self-inflicted pressure but I’ve been doing it for a long time and I won the 200 IM three years now, so it seems to be working.”
With Paoletti leading the way, the Red Devils are third in the team standings at the midway point. At 101 points, Avon Grove – the reigning state champs – trails North Penn (134) and Governor Mifflin (114), with the final six events taking place on Thursday.
So far, a total of 10 Chester County individuals have already registered top-10 finishes, and the number jumps to 15 if you include the relays. And are area came very close to having another individual state titlist when West Chester East’s Ann Carozza was the runner-up in the 100 butterfly, missing out on a gold medal by just forty one-hundredths of a second.
In four years, Paoletti has amassed three gold medals and a bronze in the 200 IM. Her time of 1:59.72 wasn’t quite her best ever, but it was good enough to edge North Penn’s Claudia Thamm by more than a second.
“I was super nervous going in because I wanted to defend my title,” Paoletti said. “I also wanted to break the 1:50 barrier, where I’ve been lingering for a long time. But I can’t complain.”
Soon after the race concluded, Burk initially asked Paoletti is she was relieved. The Yale-bound senior said, ‘yeah.’
“Olivia puts a lot of pressure on herself,” Burk explained. “She has a target on her back being the two-time state champion in the IM. I am just proud of her. She is just unbelievable.
“The breaststroke is her best, so she usually takes over midway. If she is with everybody after the first two strokes, we know she is going to be OK. And with the grit she has, she just finishes it in the freestyle.”
Carozza’s time of 54.41 was a personal best and the senior finishes with a pair of second place finished in the 100 butterfly at states.
“It’s always good getting the PR,” Carozza said. “I’ve been worked on my under waters and my breathing patterns and it helped a lot.”
Her mom, East head coach Beth Ann Carozza, added: “She really swam it smart. That’s probably the best 100 butterfly she’s ever put together.”
Conestoga’s Madison Ledwith overcame a slow start and was right behind Carozza in third place (54.76), which was quite an improvement from her 11th place finish a year ago as a junior.
“It felt like I was dead last midway through the race, but I was probably fourth or fifth after the first 50,” Ledwith said.
And Unionville junior Camryn Carter also grabbed a third place finish in the 50 freestyle (23.17). It was a personal best for Carter, who also placed third a year ago in the event. And about a half hour earlier, she was the anchor leg on the Indians’ 200 medley relay team that took home a fifth (1:45.66), along with teammates Brenna Magness, Jill Anderson and Caroline Mayk.
It wasn’t the quickest turnaround, however. That went to Avon Grove sophomore Izzy Paoletti, Olivia’s younger sister. She swam the anchor leg for the Devils’ in the 200 medley relay and then came right back in the very next event to take a sixth in the 200 freestyle (1:51.49).
“It was kind of difficult,” Izzy Paoletti said. “I could barely get out of the pool after the 200 free.”
In the relay, Izzy teamed with Olivia, and sisters Sydney and Sam Paglia, to finish in fourth place (1:45.66). Avon Grove won the event a year ago, but was shorthanded this time around.
“We were hoping to get top five,” Burk said. “We lost a couple seniors from last year and we had an injury with another who couldn’t make it this week.
“So I was very impressed. Sam Paglia’s never done the backstroke spot and she did what she needed to do.”
Izzy Paoletti added: “I was kind of blown away. I was going last and I didn’t know what was going on, so when I touched, I saw that everybody was freaking out.”
The rest of the individual top-10s came from Avon Grove’s Sydney Paglia in the 100 butterfly (ninth; 56.03) and Great Valley’s Mac Sullivan in the 100 butterfly (10th; 56.53). The Conestoga 200 medley relay was also ninth, the Coatesville 200 freestyle relay was ninth and the Avon Grove 200 freestyle relay 10th.
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