Kristen Romano is used to making adjustments.
First she moved from Buffalo to Lido Beach before her junior year to advance her already promising swimming career. Now a senior at Long Beach High School, Romano has adapted to swimming every discipline — and dominating with every stroke.
Early in the season, Romano has already qualified for the state championships at Ithaca College in all eight individual swimming events. She’s also a member of Long Beach’s 200 medley relay that qualified.
Romano has competed in four dual meets and won 12 events, highlighted by consistently decisive wins in the 100 breaststroke.
“I’m definitely very proud of myself,” said Romano. “I’m really stepping out of my comfort zone. I had lived in the same house and gone to the same school district for 16 years of my life. Making the change, I was very proud of myself.”
Romano, a returning member of Newsday’s All-Long Island first team, also competed in last year’s Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska in three events — the 200 backstroke, 200 individual and 400 individual medleys.
Though she didn’t qualify for the Rio Olympics, Romano still put together an impressive showing and continued to build her resume.
“It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my entire life,” she said. “It was so intense. It’s the pinnacle of the sport of swimming. All swimmers train to ultimately get to the Olympic Trials and make the Olympic team.”
Had she not moved to Long Island, Romano might have fallen short in her pursuits. While she said her former coaches in the Buffalo area were helpful in providing the tools to begin her career, her club coaches at the Long Island Aquatic Club in Garden City have propelled her even farther.
“I had heard of how awesome the Long Island Aquatic Club was and had recommendations from family members in the area,” she said. “I wanted to check it out and see what it could do for me.”
So her and her father, who had recently retired from a long career at UPS, made the move. Her mother stayed behind in Lancaster, where she still works as a teacher.
That has made Romano’s transition even more difficult. The original plan was to go back to Buffalo to visit her family during holiday breaks, but her training schedule is so strict that she doesn’t envision being able to visit during her Christmas break.
A typical day of training starts at 6 a.m. before school. She’ll swim until 7:15 and then go to class. After school, she spends several more hours in the pool. All told, she said she trains up to 4 ½ hours a day.
“She’s a very intense trainer,” said Long Beach coach John Skudin. “Everything’s hard. She puts her time in and she does double workouts. She’s a talented person, but she works for it.”
As expected, significant college programs have taken notice.
Romano said she has already gone on official visits to Kentucky, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Penn State and Ohio State, with an official visit to Alabama scheduled for early October. She hopes to choose after visiting Alabama.
She offers those programs elite speed and versatility, evidenced by her dominance in each stroke and distance.
With several more weeks remaining in the high school swim season, Romano has the opportunity to qualify for the state championships in the other two remaining relays — the 200 freestyle and the 400 freestyle.
The only event she won’t qualify for?
“I asked to try, but my coach said no,” she said. “He’ll tell you it’s because he doesn’t want me to get hurt, but it’s probably because he doesn’t think I’d be any good at it.”
Don’t be so sure.
Kristen Romano’s 2016 state qualifying times:
200 freestyle: 1:56.67
200 IM: 2:07.17
50 freestyle: 24.46
100 butterfly: 57.36
100 freestyle: 53.63
500 freestyle: 5:03.75
100 backstroke: 57.51
100 breaststroke: 1:07.83
200 medley relay: 1:51.58 (with Maggie Aroesty, Isabella Defonte, Joan Cash)