CANTON From start to finish, it was a Hoover kind of day at the Ohio High School Athletic Association swimming and diving state championship meet.
On the final day of the meet - and the final day of the season for all involved - perhaps no one had a more memorable and successful day than Hoover senior Amanda Palutsis. The Ohio State recruit won three gold medals and added a third-place finish, fittingly winning the day’s first gold in the 50 freestyle and ending the meet with her third gold as part of the 400 freestyle relay.
"We were definitely thrilled with the outcome. Second place (as a team overall) is our best finish ever and we were fourth last year and seventh the year before," Palutsis said of the Vikings’ efforts at the meet. "I had high goals coming into my last season swimming for Hoover and it was great to finish on a high note."
Finishing on a high note might be a bit of an understatement. Palutsis began her day winning the 50 freestyle with a time of 22.96 seconds, edging out junior teammate Parker Timken, who was second with a time of 23.06.
In between that and the 400 freestyle relay win, all Palutsis did was swim a leg of the 200 freestyle relay that set pool, school and state records with a time of 1:32.35, then finish third in the 100 freestyle in a time of 50.23, with Timken (49.96) one spot ahead of her.
Perhaps one of the most amazing parts of the day is that Palutsis was a mere .72 seconds away from winning the 100 freestyle and adding a fourth gold medal to her haul. She admitted that due to the fast pace of the meet and the fact that she swam four events, the reality of what she accomplished took a while to sink in.
"It did take a little bit to sink in because you just focus on one event at a time and what you need to take care of in the pool, but it’s starting to sink in," Palutsis said.
Asked if any particular moment in a day full of great ones stood out above the rest, Palutsis paused and singled out the 200 freestyle relay, where she and three juniors - Timken, Caroline Ehlers and Kate Lochridge - broke multiple records and set a time that Hoover head coach Rick Morrison said after the race should end up as one of the best times in the country this season.
Palutsis described that race as "one of the best feelings ever" and said that while her individual successes were great, the relay wins were even more exciting because she was able to accomplish something good alongside three of her teammates.
Entering the season, one of her goals was to win the 50 freestyle after placing third in the race last year at the state meet. She accomplished that goal and set the tone for one of the best days of any individual performer at the state meet in years.
Given the number of great swimmers who have passed through the Hoover program over the years, including many in the past four years, Palutsis admitted that having a career and a final meet that should propel her into the discussion of the best swimmers ever to wear a Hoover swim cap is a special feeling.
"There have certainly been a lot of talented swimmers and great coaches at Hoover and being able to earn an honor like being the first girls individual state champion is amazing," Palutsis said. "I definitely wanted to make the program proud and all of the people I’ve met and the memories I’ve made over the past four years, those are the biggest thing I’ll take with me."
Something both Palutsis and Morrison have pointed to is the fact that the overwhelming majority of the roster will be able to return next season, with the underclassmen who helped propel the team to its second-place finish now seasoned with valuable postseason experience.
While Palutsis will be wearing scarlet and gray and swimming in Columbus for Ohio State next season, her legacy with the program is one that won’t fade quickly - and one with a decidedly gold tint to it.
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