CLEARWATER — They moved from the pack into contention, surging from third place to second on the final lap of the 400-yard freestyle relay.
Finally, nearly all the swimmers were behind them. At that moment, no one at the Pinellas County Athletic Conference meet was happier than Ashley, Megan and Kathleen Rossi. The sisters swim for Clearwater and form a strong trio in the 200 and the 400 free relays.
At the conference meet, the Rossi sisters helped the Tornadoes finish third in the 200 free relay and second in the 400.
"It makes my job a lot easier as a coach to have three sisters who are all quality swimmers," Clearwater coach Dave Paul said. "I only have to find one other girl for the relays. And the Rossis have helped take the team to another level."
Ashley, a senior, and Megan, a junior, have been swimming together since they were 7. Kathleen, a sophomore, initially spent her time in the stands, watching her older sisters fly by the competition.
It wasn't long before Kathleen joined her sisters in the family sport. Now she is stroke for stroke with them.
"We used to be more competitive with each other," Megan said. "But it isn't as much anymore because we're in different events."
Kathleen is a sprinter, Ashley focuses on the backstroke and Megan specializes in the distance events. Last year, all three made it to state on relay teams with Ashley and Megan also qualifying in individual events.
"Now the goal is to get to the state meet with each of us making it as individuals," Ashley said.
It will be a difficult task considering Class 3A-5 is one of the toughest districts in the state.
"I think we're each improving and we'll start to lower our times in the next few weeks," Ashley said. "It will be sad once the season ends, and I'll no longer be swimming with my sisters. It's just another chapter in our lives."