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Hudson swimmer wants one last hurrah at state

(ran PW, PS editions)

Forget about breaking records, leaving a legacy or winning a third or fourth state championship.

All that Hudson's Amanda Paulo's wants from Friday's state meet in Fort Lauderdale is a happy ending to one of the county's most illustrious swimming careers.

"I'm really looking to just go and have a good time," said Paulo, who will be a front-runner for her third straight 100-meter backstroke title and is also among the fastest in the 50-meter freestyle.

"I want to give it all I've got, then get out of the pool. I'm not going to stress about it."

Paulo has kept busy as a senior, traveling to Largo a few times a week to practice with a year-round team while still serving as captain of the Hudson team and juggling dual-enrollment college credits with her regular classload.

Her laid-back approach to her final high school meet doesn't reflect a lack of commitment, rather a recognition of what environment allows her to perform best.

"If I'm nervous, I can't swim fast," said Paulo, who was able to trim 2.03 seconds off her 1999 winning time in last year's 100-meter backstroke final, finishing in 56.20 seconds. "I'm just too concentrated on winning and not just swimming. Everyone is different, but my whole attitude has always been to have fun."

Paulo's forte has been the backstroke, but she also won the 50-meter freestyle at last week's district meet and finished second in the state in that event last year.

Despite the shorter distance, Paulo said the limited margin for error makes that event a bigger challenge than the backstroke.

"It'd be nice to win the 50. I've never won it," she said. "I've loved that event since I was little. It's actually harder than it sounds _ you mess up a little, and that's it."

In dual meets this season, Paulo has focused on earning points in multiple events, since winning in her strengths is almost a given.

"This will be the first high school meet (this year) where she'll have any competition that will be even close to her," Cobras coach Nickol White said.

Paulo has a larger supporting cast of Cobras with her than in any of her past trips to state.

She'll swim the backstroke on the 200-meter medley relay, joining Elizabeth Badgett (fly), Jessica Camis (breast) and Aliee Mercer (free). Hudson's 400-meter boys freestyle relay of Chris Pugliese, Craig Bialkoski, Joey Deliberti and Jeff Smolinski also qualified, and Bialkoski will compete in the 100-meter breaststroke.

"It's exciting to have people who have never been able to compete there," Paulo said. "I'm happy for them because they get a chance to experience at all."

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