WARSAW — Poaolo Palmitessa is feeling the pressure.
After falling just shy of a state cut in second place in the 200-yard Individual Medley at last year’s Warsaw Boys Swim Sectional, the Plymouth senior has just one more shot to make it out this week as the preliminary round of swim sectionals begins tonight.
“I’m feeling enormous pressure because I haven’t been to state ever,” said Palmitessa. “It’s pretty nerve-wracking for me, but I’m pretty excited, too.”
As the Pilgrims head to Warsaw, Bremen will travel to the Mishawaka Sectional tonight with both prelims slated to start at 5:30 p.m.
Joining Plymouth in the 10-team Warsaw field is familiar foe Culver Military, with the host Tigers being the easy favorite.
“Warsaw is going to be the power house,” said Plymouth boys swimming head coach Leanne Senter. “Then probably CMA. We can compete with CMA, Rochester’s a little stronger than what they have been in the past. We’ll see how it plays out.
“Everybody is going into this with the right attitude, and we had some good surprises time-wise at our last meet.”
Although he may be under pressure, Palmitessa’s races are his to lose, at least on paper, as he owns the best seed time in both the IM and the 100-yard backstroke at tonight’s Warsaw prelims.
“I’m actually feeling pretty good about this year’s sectionals,” he said. “My splits during practices in my sets are pretty good, and it’s really helping me get myself mentally prepared for sectionals tomorrow.”
While the overwhelmingly young Pilgrims’ best hopes for advancement lie in Palmitessa, Plymouth’s relay squads also stand a chance of getting out. And, as Senter knows, anything can happen in the state meet.
“I’ve got enough people that can do enough different things that I can build three really good relays so I’m really excited about that,” she said. “We’re seeded fifth in two of them and third in another one. Different things can happen. A few years ago, we had a relay team that got to go to state because they were second, and the first-place team got DQ’d for a false start. Stuff like that happens all the time so you’ve always got to be prepared and go at it and give it your best.”
And if the allure of a sectional championship and state berth aren’t enough, Senter has provided a little extra incentive.
“We have a lot of kids seeded in the top 12 and only two or three seconds separating them from the top six,” she said. “The deal is, if everybody gets in the top 12 then I’m dying my hair red for Saturday, so that’s their motivation.”