Andrew and Olivia each had the opportunity to share the pool with Melissa, one of the most decorated racers in Red Eddies history.
Even though she has moved about a mile up the street from the YWCA of Central Maine to Bates College, Melissa’s influence remains. But her younger siblings see it as a blessing rather than a burden.
“It helps a lot knowing if I mess up, she’s there to help me out,” said Andrew, a senior. “She always helps us with turns, with technique. She’s there for us.”
“She was a great role model,” echoed Olivia, a sophomore. “It motivates me. You know you want to be just as good as she is.”
According to one of the people who knows the siblings and their swimming talents best, that’s entirely possible.
EL coach Scott Morrison watched Melissa Paione set the school record in the 100-yard breaststroke as a senior. She was the first Red Eddies swimmer to put her name in that historic roll call since Vanessa Williamson did it in 2001.
Melissa also scored substantial points in the Class A state meet each of her four years. Don’t be surprised if Olivia takes that baton and runs with it.
“She really follows right in Melissa’s footsteps,” Morrison said. “And then some. She may even go another step.”
The numbers are packed with promise. Olivia is ranked among the state’s top 10 swimmers in a staggering six events, most notably third in the 100 breaststroke, fourth in the 200 individual medley and fifth in the 200 and 500 freestyle.
In her first taste of the state competition a year ago, Olivia won the consolation final in the 500 freestyle. That triumph came with a twinge of disappointment.
“I didn’t do well in the prelims,” she recalled. “If I did as well in the prelims as I did in the final, I would have placed pretty well (sixth). But I thought it was pretty good for a freshman.”
As the youngest of the three, Olivia was the tag-along who took to the water like a duck. She took swimming lessons as a toddler and joined Melissa on the Twin Cities Swim Team at age 6.
“I’ve watched these guys grow up,” Morrison said.
Andrew was the late bloomer who initially preferred the winter sport with the bouncing ball.
That didn’t exactly fit the family’s perpetual travel calendar.
“My mom (Janet) talked me into it,” he said. “It was hard for her getting me back and forth to basketball when the other two were swimming.”
“He was always around the pool,” Olivia said.
Andrew’s primary event is the 100 backstroke, where Morrison believes he has the chance to break the one-minute threshold and crack the state final.
Each is thriving even in the aftermath of the Red Eddies’ family trio becoming a duo.
“It was so much fun having the three of them together. I was so excited for Melissa to get to go to Bates. I can see her swim there. And I was looking forward to seeing how Andrew and Olivia would swim this year without Melissa,” Morrison said.
Andrew will enter the Navy upon graduation while Olivia keeps the family tradition afloat.
“Each year I lose another one of them. That’s what happens,” Morrison said. “They come from a great family. Ed and Janet are great people. They’re wonderful kids. You couldn’t ask for more.”