Hudson junior Ross Palazzo will be one of several swimmers to watch Saturday in the boys state championship meet at C.T. Branin Natatorium in Canton.
Palazzo will attempt to add Division I state championships to the two he won last year.
“The goal is to repeat,” Hudson coach Matt Davis said. “I think he has some higher goals than that, obviously time-wise and things like that that he will try to go for. He will be shaved and rested for the state meet. The goal is to go faster and I think he will. He always steps up and swims well when he needs to.”
Last season, Palazzo won the 200-yard individual medley in a time of 1:48.49 and then snagged a second title when he placed first in the 100 breast stroke in 55.00 seconds.
Palazzo just missed last year on the 200 IM record of 1:47.63, which is held by Olympic gold-medal winner Mark Gangloff, a graduate of Firestone and Auburn University.
“I think when you do have a great performance that puts even more pressure on you because you are on top now, and that is the hardest place to be,” Palazzo said in regards to swimming under pressure.
“Everyone is gunning for you, but in addition to that, it is also a privilege. You have to remind yourself of that every day that people are coming for you and that is just another reason to work harder.”
Palazzo enters the weekend as the No. 1 seed in the 100 breast stroke at 55.78 and the No. 2 seed in the 200 IM at 1:50.39.
“I was not satisfied with my times [last week],” Palazzo said. “I would have liked to go faster, obviously, but I know what I have to work on for the state meet. I was faster at district than last year, so I am happy with that, but I know areas where I can get faster and the state meet is my main focus.”
Palazzo said he has met Gangloff and respects his accomplishments.
“I have talked to Mark a few times,” Palazzo said. “He came and did a clinic for us two years ago and he also helped with the kickoff of the Make-A-Splash in Akron, which Andrew Appleby started. He graduated from Cuyahoga Falls last year after winning a state championship [in the 100 backstroke]. Mark helped him with that and I was able to meet him there. Since Mark and I are both breast strokers, I have seen him at national level meets and talked there. He keeps up with my times from time-to-time.”
Palazzo’s low-key personality is a pleasure to be around for Davis.
“Ross is one of the most intelligent swimmers I have coached,” Davis said. “He is very grounded and very humble. He doesn’t want the recognition for himself. He wants the other kids to take pride in this. It is not just about him. I give him a lot of credit for that because, when you get to a certain level sometimes, it can be hard to control that, but he does a great job with that and I think that is one of his biggest assets. He always has higher goals. He is not satisfied, so even if he does well he is happy with what he has done, but he has another goal and if he achieves that goal then he has another goal.”
Hudson taking 15
Davis said Hudson is taking 15 swimmers to the state meet: eight girls and seven boys.
The Explorers girls are seniors Paige Kelly and Jillian Saccogna, juniors Stephanie Boyd, Caitlin Weigel, Sarah Wolanske and Gina Saxon, sophomore Kristin Dagley and freshman Macy Trattner.
The Explorers boys are seniors Peyton Brown and Doni Moffa, juniors Keegan Goeke, Brendon Mulcahey, Ryan Johnson and Palazzo and sophomore Cole Clampffer.
“I am just proud of everybody,” Kelly said. “Week-by-week, we get better.
“We have so much depth that it is exciting to see people in each event do so well.”
Kelly enters the weekend with the fifth-best girls time in the 500 freestyle (4:56.61). She was third in the event last year, touching the wall in 4:54.40.
Walsh Jesuit taking 12
Walsh Jesuit has 11 swimmers in the state meet, and one diver (junior Kailey Francetic). The boys swimmers are senior Drew Lenz and juniors Tom Imhoff, Nick Pennza, Michael “Joey” Reilman, Adam Wilson and Tim Wintering.
The girls swimmers are juniors Samantha Geyer and Alyssa Heller, sophomore Lauren Heller and freshmen Hanna Gresser and Carly Hart.
“We are trying to keep our taper,” Walsh coach Wally Lutkus said. “We have some unshaved people right now and we hope the speed continues to develop.”
Last year, Lauren Heller placed fourth in the 200 freestyle (1:49.65) and fifth in the 100 freestyle (51.43 seconds). She enters this weekend with the fourth-best girls times in each event, 1:49.37 in the 200 freestyle and 50.76 in the 100 freestyle.
“We have a lot of fun together on this team,” Heller said. “We have a lot of young speed and we get along really well.”
Gresser is seeded No. 1 in the 100 breast stroke (1:04.07). Reilman has the fourth-best boys time in the 100 backstroke (50.74).
“I am definitely really nervous, but I feel like it will excite me and then I will be able to swim,” Gresser said. “I hope it will add to the whole high school experience.”
Others to watch
North Canton Hoover senior Stephen Watson, an Ohio State recruit, also has state boys experience and enters this weekend with the second-best time in the 50 freestyle (20.73) and fifth-best time in the 100 freestyle (45.88).
Copley junior Madison Myers, Green senior Kennedy Herbert, Jackson senior Elizabeth Graeff and Wooster sophomore Jessica Bonezzi are four other girls who will take aim at standing atop the podium Saturday.
Myers has the fifth-best time in the 100 butterfly (56.38) and 100 backstroke (56.39).
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.