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From a 5-year-old playing in her backyard pool to a nationally-ranked swimmer, Megan Romano may well be on her way to a stellar career.
"I would really like to go to the Olympics one day," said Romano, 12. "I know it will take a lot of hard work and practice and dedication."
Romano's St. Petersburg Aquatics coach, Fred Lewis, says she has the tools to be outstanding. Romano's No. 1 spot in the national poll for two events verifies her ability.
During the 2001 short-course season, Romano achieved first-place status in the 10-and-under division in the 200-yard freestyle and the 500 free.
For her success in the 10 class, she was awarded Florida Swimming's Swimmer of the Year honor. "Megan has already bettered her 200 time by five seconds and her 500 by 10," Lewis said. "If she can stay healthy and continues to train hard, as she always does, her times should be even better."
Lewis says several factors influence a swimmer's good fortune: parents to get you to practice, the desire to be at practice, the dedication to work hard at practice and the attitude that you want to do your best to win.
"Megan has the swimmer's build, with big hands and feet," Lewis said, "and, most of all, she has a big heart."
Romano is modest about her talents, which contributes to her diligent work ethic.
As a way to push herself, Romano sets goals for each practice session. When competing, she races against her opponents as well as her best time.
In last month's Lake County Aquatics Meet in Orlando, Romano bettered her performance in the 200 free to 1:57.66 and in the 500 to 5:07.49. In addition to finishing first in both, she was a winner in five other individual events and two relays.
Swimming with Tracy Rorer, Kelsey Krauss and Katie Brown, the foursome won the 200 free and 200 medley relays. SPA finished fourth among 18 teams and was the only Pinellas squad competing.
"That was a good meet for me, and I was really pleased with how I swam," Romano said. "I hope to do well in the Junior Olympics coming up next month.
"This weekend at the Last Chance Meet in Clearwater, I'll try for a few firsts, but will play it by ear," she said. "I've been sick and not practiced as much as usual."
Staying healthy, Lewis says, is a key to Romano's success. Two bouts with strep throat have affected her training.
"I'm feeling much better and getting back into practice," Romano said. "I've qualified to swim six events at JOs and want to be ready."
At JOs, Romano moves up to the 12-and-under division and will swim the 50, 200 and 500 free; 50 and 100 backstroke and the 200 individual medley.
The meet is scheduled for March 6-9 in Gainesville.
GYMNASTICS: The Tampa Bay Turners won the Level 5 competition in the Gym Quarters Invite in St. Louis, was second in Level 9 and third in Level 4.
Among the all-around champions were Rylie Moran in Level 4; Lindsey Brown and Mariah Broughton in Level 5; and Jenny Citrin and Alyssa Harmon in Level 9.
The Turners' event winners were Moran (balance and floor exercise) and Bianca Rawson (beam and floor) in Level 4; Broughton (uneven bars, beam and floor), Brown (bars and floor) and Kim Messier (bars, beam and floor) in Level 5; Harmon (bars and floor), Lisa Taylor (beam) and Citrin (vault, beam and floor) in Level 9; and Kaylene Sattanno (bars) in Level 10.
Medalist All-Star Gymnastics claimed three first-place titles in the Dawg Days Classic in Athens, Ga.
Jordan Jankovic won the Level 7 vault and bars events, and Ryann Matthews was first in Level 9 beam.
Other medalists in Level 7 were Christine Sayler and Kristina Lee (vault and bars). In Level 8 were Marissa Bragg (vault and floor), Briana Stiles (vault), Stacey Ostlund (bars) and Dalila Lemezan (vault, beam and floor). Lemezan was third all-around.
Amanda Crane received a medal in Level 9 vault.
LaFleur's of Largo claimed first in Level 8 competition of the Monopoly Meet in Fort Lauderdale. The organization's Level 7 and 9 teams were second overall.
Ashley Strong won the all-around in Level 8 and was followed by top all-arounders Jamie Applefield (second), Nicole Abdo (fifth), Crysta Huszai (fifth) and Alex Smith-Prance (fifth).
Leading Level 7 was Kaley LaFleur (first), Danielle Kazakos (third), Brynn Fullmer (third) and Sarena Bumbarger (fourth), in all-around; and event winners Mariah Oakley (vault), LaFleur (floor exercise) and Fullmer (uneven bars). Jenifer Voynovich was second all-around in Level 9, Danielle Carey third and Kaitlyn Thorwarth ninth. In Level 10, Elizabeth Hermann took fifth all-around and Alyssa Wright was seventh.
Bayside Gymnastics won the Level 4 crown in the Florida West Coast Invite, was second in Level 5 and fourth in Level 8.
Top-10 all-around performances were produced in Level 4 by Briana Rizzo (second), Ashley Ventura and Haley Stroud (third), Rachel Thigpen and Paige Tripp (fourth), Chelsea Kesty (fifth), Brittany Reuther (sixth) and Lindsay Prince (seventh).
Lacy Buck, Samantha Stephan, Brittany Tanner, Sara Wright and Kate Shanahan led Level 5, and Hannah Buck was seventh all-around in Level 7. Melissa Tomlin and Kortney Wright placed sixth and seventh all-around, respectively, in Level 8.
SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING: Suncoast WaterWorks members competed among 11 teams from Florida, Texas and Virginia in the South Zone Junior/Senior Championship in San Antonio. Fourteen WaterWorks swimmers advanced to finals and produced qualifying scores for the Senior South Zone Championship next month in Alexandria, Va.
In the Junior/Senior meet, Darcee Kingsley, Rachel Rooth and Andrea Patterson were first in Junior trio competition. The Junior unit of Meredith Cooke, Abbie Zohn, Nichole Lee, Szandra Horvath, Caity Carey, Jamie Freshour, Kingsley, Rooth and Patterson also enjoyed a top performance.
Jessica Milam, Kendall Carey and Horvath finished third in Senior trio. Freshour and Cooke were third in Junior duet. Cooke placed fourth in Junior solo, and Caity Carey and Horvath took fourth in Senior duet.
SWIMMING: The Clearwater Aquatic Team is playing host to the Last Chance Meet at the Long Center. CAT coach Mike Yearwood expected 450 competitors representing 22 squads.
The three-day meet, which concludes today, is an opportunity for swimmers to make qualifying times for the Junior Olympics or to prepare for the upcoming event in Gainesville. For Last Chance schedules, call 791-9542.