Five Poland girls swimmers are looking to qualify for the Division II state meet later this month.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
Before each meet, five Poland swimmers gather tightly in a huddle and, after a few alternating dips, put their hands in the middle and yell, "1-2-3, Go 'P'!"
"It pumps us up," Poland senior Audrie Plant said.
It's also funny, which is a good description for the Bulldogs.
"We used to say 'Another one bites the dust,' " senior Raeanne Coppola said with a laugh. "Then we got to state and we bit the dust."
The five fun-loving Bulldogs -- Plant, Coppola, Carey Venglarcik, Allyson Simons and Liz Rothenberg -- are looking to qualify for the Division II state meet in the 200-yard freestyle relay and the 200 individual medley relay in Canton later this month.
Venglarcik, Coppola and Plant have made it the past three years in 200 freestyle -- the first two years with Simons' sister, Jess. After Jess Simons graduated, Rothenberg -- the only junior on the relays -- took her spot.
The 200 IM is basically the same, only Allyson takes Plant's spot.
Got all that? Good.
The 200 freestyle relay team finished ninth at the state meet last year, just missing the finals by .03 seconds. The goal for the 200 freestyle relay is to place in the top eight. The goal for the 200 IM is just to get there.
"We work together really well," Simons said. "We've worked hard on our starts and we know each other's strokes and how each person swims. That's important."
They also know each other's temperament.
For instance, Coppola and Simons swim best when they're mad. Rothenberg and Plant are more laid-back. Venglarcik swims best in big meets. Venglarcik won the Div. II state title in the 100 backstroke as a sophomore and finished third last year.
"We've got a lot of big meet experience, and that makes it easier," Plant said, "and Carey really steps up in big meets. When it counts, she pulls it out of nowhere."
It also helps that they're friends.
Before the state meet, they die their hair blue and buy little boys' T-shirts, write all over them and wear them to school. They're called "bonding shirts."
"Last year we had them professionally made, but that was no fun," Plant said.
They credit their coaches, Beth Gargasz and Beth Queen, not only with helping them develop as a team, but also dealing with outside distractions that sometimes creep up during the year.
"They've really brought us together," Plant said.
Coppola said the team feels pressure to return to the state meet, but some of that pressure comes from themselves.
With less than three weeks until the state final, expectations -- and hopes -- are high.
"It would be really bad to make it as freshmen and not go as seniors," Plant said. "We're crossing our fingers."
XThe sectional swimming and diving tournaments begin Friday at several sites.