Paige Colombo thought about quitting.
Instead, she became one of the best.
Colombo is a senior at Archbishop Ryan High School, and when she first started swimming for the Ragdolls, she immediately found out how much tougher it was to swim at the high school level than it was when she was at Our Lady of Calvary.
She was still good, but there are more practices. Harder practices. And the jump from good to great when you’re competing against the best the Catholic League has to offer is a pretty giant leap.
She almost was afraid to make it. Almost.
But instead, she just worked harder.
“I had a really rocky start, I thought I was falling out of love because going from grade school swimming to high school are two totally different things,” said Colombo, who lives in Calvary. “I was going to stop. But then I had a long talk with Sarah (Hutchins, Ryan assistant coach and daughter of longtime head coach Ed Macko), and I decided to keep trying. Then I got All-Catholic, and that was it for me. I became focused.
“People underestimate how hard it is to swim, but it’s a great sport. It’s really hard, though, if you want to do well, you have to be dedicated. After that, swimming became my life.”
If that’s the case, Colombo is enjoying a very successful life.
On Saturday, she brought home seven medals and another certificate of accomplishment during the Catholic League and District 12 championships at La Salle University in helping Ryan finish second overall behind Cardinal O’Hara at the PCL championships. In the process, she qualified for states for the fourth straight year.
This year, Colombo will join senior Gianna Short, sophomore Maya Londo and freshman Kate MacAlister in the 200 medley relay in two weeks. Colombo, who also earned All-Catholic honors in the 50 free, the 100 free and the 200 medley free, is happy she’s going to states for the final time with some of her younger teammates so they can experience what it’s like to swim against the best Pennsylvania has to offer.
“It means a lot to go with this relay team because I didn’t swim the medley relay a lot, but this was the lineup (the coaches) put together to give us a good shot at qualifying,” Colombo said. “I’ve swam with Gianna a lot, and last year Maya was such a great addition to our team. She’s a great swimmer, and Kate really helped us this year. I clicked with both of them right away and that makes it fun.
“That’s the best thing about swimming here. Swimming has helped me in a lot of ways. States was my top goal this year. Obviously PCL was up there, too, but being able to say I went to states all four years is such a big accomplishment. And I wouldn’t have done it without my team. Everyone made everyone else better. I’m really proud of everyone, especially the younger girls.”
A quick glance at Colombo’s medals, you’d think her biggest accomplishment was in the pool where she helped the Ragdolls go undefeated in Catholic League dual meets on top of putting up great times as an individual. But her leadership might have been the biggest thing she brought to the team, and that will be felt long after she leaves.
“I did believe in our team, we are so strong as a team, we all just worked so well together,” Colombo said. “We all had really good sportsmanship. I liked helping the younger girls. That’s why this team is good, and always is, everyone helps everyone. You need to do that.
“It was honestly my best experience there, by far the best. Even though we didn’t win, it was so much fun being there cheering each other on. Second is pretty good. Those girls on the other team, they were really good, too. I think our team is great. Unfortunately you can’t win them all. We went out and did our best and did everything we could.
“I’m proud of how everyone swam and I honestly think they’re going to be great next year, too. There are some really good swimmers and I think they have some good freshmen coming in. I’m excited to see what they do.”
She might be poolside to see what happens.
Colombo is unsure about what’s after graduation. A good student, she is sure this will mark the end of her swimming career. She’s undecided if she wants to go to college next year or join the workforce and save up some money before deciding her next step.
If she stays in the area, she would love to become a coach and help the Ragdolls.
“I really liked helping them, and I think I would like to be a coach,” Colombo said. “It’s hard, because I’m their friend, but I think I would be a good coach. I’ve learned a lot swimming here, and I would really like to keep helping. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing, but if I could stay a part of this team, I would love it. I think I would really like coaching.”
Other Ryan swimmers who earned All-Catholic were Hannah Storm, Julianna Deluisi, Alyssa Carvalho and Lauren Visco.
The Ragdolls weren’t the only Catholic League team to have reason to celebrate.
Little Flower’s Zoe Steinmetz qualified for states in the 200 individual medley.
Gianna Marzullo and Sarah Penczak were All-Catholic selections for St. Hubert.