ST. PETERSBURG - Megan Romano this, Megan Romano that.
You'd think by now Northeast's swimmers would be sick and tired of hearing questions about their Olympic hopeful teammate.
But you'd be wrong.
"If anything, it's an extreme honor (to swim with Romano)," said senior captain Jessie Bardin, a teammate on the St. Pete Aquatics club team for the past seven years. "Megan is as much a great person as she is a competitor, so it's pretty special to have someone like that on your team. We all feel pretty special that we can be a part of what she's doing."
Romano, a freshman, is one of three Florida swimmers invited to the United States Junior Nationals camp this weekend in Colorado Springs, Colo. Participants will prepare for an Olympic Nationals trial event scheduled for January in Australia.
But the camp likely will leave Romano unavailable for this weekend's Class 2A region meet.
"It took (the rest of the team) a while to understand that something's more important than high school," Northeast coach Bill Burrows said.
"But they've accepted the fact that Megan is an incredible athlete who has the potential to do something pretty special. Of course we'll miss her, but we still have some pretty talented swimmers who should get us to states."
Those include seniors Bardin, Lauren Sanchez and Jamie Milo and freshmen Katie Brown and Lindsay Daniel. At Wednesday's district meet, Bardin, Milo and Brown teamed with Romano for the 200-meter medley relay and 400 free relay, and Daniel, Sanchez and Melanie Stickney teamed with Romano for the 200 free relay.
Bardin easily won her two individual events, the 50 and 100 free, and Milo was third in the 100 breaststroke and Brown won the 100 backstroke and was second in the 100 fly.
Burrows said he figures the relays will be a few seconds slower but expects stronger swimmers such as Bardin and Milo to pick up their pace from districts. In addition, he will change the order of some relays. In any case, the Vikings have proved they can win without Romano, having finished 10th at the state meet in 2004 and 14th in 2003. And they have won relays this season without Romano.
"Of course, based on the depth of talent we have, we still have a chance to do well," Daniel said. "But it's obvious we're more than likely to win with Megan than without her."