The 2008 Summer Olympics created Gia DiRenzo’s passion for swimming.

“I was watching them swim backstroke and I just looked at my parents and said, ‘I want to go do that,’” the Austintown Fitch junior said.

At age 7, DiRenzo began swimming at the Downtown YMCA. This season, she qualified for the Division I district meet at Cleveland State University in the 100 butterfly and the 100 backstroke races.

“I’m better at the 100 butterfly, but sometimes that stresses me out so much that I hate it, but I still love it,” DiRenzo said.

Her goal this season was to finish in the top eight at district.

“My freshman year I finished 10th, my sophomore year I finished ninth, so my goal this year was to get on the podium,” DiRenzo said.

She achieved that goal, finishing eighth in the 100 butterfly, but just missing a trip to the state meet in Canton. The top two finishers at Ohio’s four district meets qualify for state, as do the 16 swimmers with the next best times. The experience, she said, was “bittersweet” because she was not feeling at her best physically.

“I was really hoping to see a bigger time drop from sectional to district,” said DiRenzo, who posted her personal best (58.28). “I felt I could have done more.”

She’ll have one more chance next winter. In the meantime, her college search is under way and she’d like to continue her swimming career after she graduates from Fitch.

A bonus this season came after DiRenzo got her driver’s license, enabling her to get extra practice. Several times a week, she’d wake up at 5:15 a.m. to get into the Youngstown State University pool at 6 a.m. for a one-hour practice, then go to school. On other days, she’d run when she wasn’t in the water.

“It was so much easier,” she said of being able to drive and not asking her parents (John and Amy) to wake up early to take her.

In the classroom, DiRenzo’s favorite subjects are science and math. She’s not of fan of English, but her favorite course this year is AP English (American literature and composition) taught by Heather Carcelli.

“I hate English, but I love the class this year,” DiRenzo said. “I like classes that have one answer and there’s one way to get the answer. English is all subjective and I don’t do so well with that. But my teacher made it so fun — she’s just a great teacher.”

As a freshman, DiRenzo’s favorite class was geometry taught by Walt Hurdley, now a Canfield teacher.

“He made it so that all of us wanted to be in his class,” DiRenzo said.

Tom Williams

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