There is a strong group of rookies headlined by two veterans from area schools headed for the PIAA Swimming and Diving Championships starting today at Bucknell University.
In the Class AAA field, Hollidaysburg will be represented by Greg Dinges, Mace and Colter Long, and Max and Alex Gehringer. Only Mace Long has been there before. He is making his fourth trip to states. Altoona's Katerina Parowski is headed to states for the first time, too.
In the Class AA competition, Central's Taylor Flaugh is headed back to the state meet for a second time, while Central Cambria's Gabby Gironda is making her first trek to Lewisburg.
Hollidaysburg coach Deb Solomon will be busy today and Thursday with Mace Long in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke, along with his brother, Colter, Dinges and Alex Gehringer in the 200 freestyle relay. Both Longs, Dinges and Max Gehringer will also swim the 200 medley relay.
"I really think the medley team has a good chance to medal," Solomon said. "We are looking for a pretty good drop in time from Alex."
Mace Long will compete in three races today.
"There is a possibility of six races in one day for us. That's a lot," Solomon said. "But they have to get there first."
Parowski will compete in the 200 freestyle today and the 100 freestyle on Thursday.
"I'm excited, and I like that I am not seeded super well because that will give me a lot of room to knock down and lower my place," she said. "I think I can definitely drop places, and I definitely want to drop time."
Parowski is no stranger to states. She attended several years ago when her older sister, Danielle, competed at states. She also swam this past weekend at a YMCA national meet, so she is used to a high level.
"I expect her to swim her hardest," Altoona coach Andy Smearman said. "I think we will both be happy if she can drop more time and move up in her places. We've been focusing on technique and some easy kind of swimming yardage to keep her loose and to get her to swim fast."
Flaugh will swim Friday in the 200 freestyle and Saturday in the 500 freestyle. Last year at states, she just competed in the 200 event.
"I want to make finals in both," Flaugh said. "Last year I did not make the finals. I think I might be better in the 200, but the 500 has been my best so far this year so we will just have to see. Last year was my first time ever at Bucknell. I am nervous now, but I am not overwhelmed. I also swam there this past summer so I am used to it now."
Coach Amanda Herr just wants to keep Flaugh focused.
"That is our main goal," she said. "With her being there last year, that will help. She knows what it is like."
Gironda, who will compete in the 100 butterfly on Friday, feels she's prepared for her first PIAA trip.
"I want to swim my race and get a personal best," she said. "This is just another race to me. I have been training hard for this so no matter what happens, I can't be mad about it because I am ready."
CC coach Ann Risaliti is not surprised by Gironda's confidence.
"I think a lot of it has to do with the big [YMCA] meets she has been to," she said. "She is very confident, very relaxed. She had a great meet at the Johnstown YMCA [nationals]."