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Paoletti secures another state title; leads Avon Grove to team runner-up

LEWISBURG >> Olivia Paoletti doesn’t smile a whole lot during most swim meets, and that was certainly the case at the PIAA Class 3A Girls Swimming and Diving Championships.

But the ultra-focused Avon Grove senior consciously took some time to enjoy her final two days as a high school swimmer.

And on Thursday, Paoletti was smiling ear to ear after winning yet another state title, successfully defending her crown in the 100-yard breaststroke just like she did a day earlier in the 200 IM. It wasn’t quite enough to hold off North Penn for the state team title, but Paoletti and the Red Devils happily accepted the runner-up trophy.

“Our girls swam their hearts out,” said Avon Grove head coach Kelly Burk. “We were just hoping to get into the top three. We lost three great seniors a year ago, and we only have seven on our team, and they all scored and did their job.

“We knew it was going to be hard to repeat because our relays aren’t quite as strong. But everybody gave it their all.”

In all, Chester County swimmers notched 10 medals and a dozen top-10 finishes, headlined by Paoletti, who led a 1-3 finish for the Devils in the breaststroke. Her younger sister, Izzy, also registered a runner-up performance in the 500 freestyle.

Olivia Paoletti’s winning time in the breaststroke was 1:01.65, which was 15 hundredths of a second ahead of Laura Goettler of Butler. And Avon Grove teammate Rabea Pfaff followed up in third place at 1:02.82.

“Rabea is a fierce competitor and we make each other better,” said Paoletti, who noted that she and Pfaff have been swimming together since they were 5 years old.

“It’s amazing to have Olivia as a training partner,” Pfaff added. “We work together every day, pushing each other.”

At the midway point of the race, Paoletti was in second place, but she surged slightly ahead in the final 25 yards.

“I was seeded second, and that added to the nerves, but I came in knowing that there were a lot of fast competitors in this race,” Paoletti said.

“So it’s a big relieve. I couldn’t be happier with my races. I just wanted to focus on the energy of the meet and I was really just trying to have fun.”

And just about 10 minutes after that race concluded, Paoletti and Pfaff were back in the pool for a quick turnaround in the 400 freestyle relay, along with Aley Savory and Izzy Paoletti. The foursome wound up fourth overall in a time of 3:28.08.

“It was a very limited amount of time. It was a tough turnaround, but we managed it as well as we could,” Pfaff said.

“It was my last high school race, so I left it all I the pool and went as fast as I could,” Olivia Paoletti added. “I’m pretty tired and it’s pretty late.

“Now that it’s over, these last four years have been a big part of my life. It’s coming to a close, so it’s bittersweet, but I’m leaving behind a lot of great memories and a team that will continue to have a lot of success.”

With two more gold medals, along with a fourth and sixth place finish in the relays, Olivia Paoletti finished out her high school career was a bang. She ended up with a total of five individual gold medals.

“A swimmer like Olivia probably comes around every 30 or 40 years,” Burk said. “She is an unbelievable young woman, she is extremely humble, and not only is she fast in the pool, she is smart. We are really, really going to miss her.”

Just a sophomore, Izzy Paoletti placed second in the 500 freestyle in a time of 4:51.76, which was a full five seconds off her previous best.

“I felt really good in warm-up and I was ready to swim,” she said. “I’m really excited to see what I can do in this event the next few years.”

West Chester East’s Ann Carozza and Avon Grove’s Sydney Paglia each notched a fourth place finish in the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke, respectively. In the final swim of her prep career, Carozza went 50.4, to edge out four other finalists, including Conestoga’s Madison Ledwith (seventh; 50.97).

“It was a fast race and I was happy to set my best time ever,” Carozza said of her 100 freestyle outing. “Whenever that happens, I’m happy because it means I am improving.”

Also a sophomore, Paglia just missed out on a bronze medal in the backstroke. Her time of 55.91 was slightly slower than her qualifying time, but it was enough to get fourth place, two spots ahead of Conestoga’s Sophia Poeta (56.76).

“I wasn’t rested for this meet so I just wanted to see what I could do,” Poeta said of her sixth place finish. “I was looking to get into the final, so I’m happy with that.”

Other medalists included Downingtown West’s Madi Grenoble in the 100 breaststroke (seventh; 1:04.3), and the Conestoga 400 freestyle relay, which included Ledwith, Poeta, Alex Marlow and Louise Hay (seventh, 3:31.99).

And Downingtown West’s Sara Haggerty also secured the seventh spot in the one-meter diving competition. A 16-year-old sophomore, Haggerty placed seventh overall with 409.7 points. She was 10th midway through the competition but finished strong.

“It was a great experience,” she said. “I didn’t make it last year, so it’s even more exciting to medal. Just being here I learned a lot.

“I had a few not so great dives early, but the last three went well for me.”

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