He is, perhaps, the greatest swimmer in Hudson High School history.

He also competed in national competitions and certainly held his own against some of the top athletes in his age group.

But when it came to the collegiate level, particularly a big-time conference that features some of the best performers in the country, Hudson graduate Ross Palazzo felt a bit out of place.

In fact, he felt humbled.

"I was a small fish in a bigger pond," Palazzo said.

Fortunately for Palazzo, the pond doesn't look so formidable any more.

Palazzo, a rising junior for the University of Florida men's swimming and diving team, placed 13th in the 200-meter breaststroke with a personal-best time of 2 minutes, 13.78 seconds at the 2017 Phillips 66 National Championships and World Championship Trials.

The competition took place June 27 to July 1 at the Indiana University Natatorium in Indianapolis.

He also finished 24th in the 100 breaststroke and 26th in the 50 breaststroke. Palazzo added a personal-best time of 4:23 in the 400-yard individual medley.

Palazzo, a member of the Hudson Explorers Aquatics Team, set club and Lake Erie Swimming records in the 200 breaststroke and the 400 IM.

While he may not be on the level of an orca or a great white shark, Palazzo doesn't think he's a dwarf goby any more.

"I'm a little bit bigger fish now," Palazzo said. "I don't have any gold medals, but I'm definitely moving up."

Palazzo, 20, didn't have trouble "striking gold" during his days with the Explorers.

He won five state titles and a silver medal. He set a number of records during his days at Hudson High School and also with his current club team, the Hudson Explorers Aquatics Team.

Palazzo made some significant strides for the Gators, who finished third in the NCAA Division I Championships behind California and Texas.

He placed 25th in the 200-meter breaststroke, 40th in the 200 individual medley and 44th in the 100 breaststroke.

Palazzo also finished 11th in the 200 breaststroke, 16th in the 400 IM and 19th in the 200 IM at the Southeastern Conference Championships.

"Ross is a fantastic individual," Florida head coach Gregg Troy said. "You're not going to meet a nicer kid. He came in as a good high school swimmer. He had a good skill set and was well-coached."

Palazzo didn't lose too many meets while swimming for the Explorers or the HEAT.

However, his first days as a Gator forced him out of his comfort zone.

"I had a really hard time adjusting to the workload," Palazzo said. "I was pretty good at Hudson, but I never got to train with world-class swimmers. Now I'm training with gold medalists who push you to a new level every day."

Troy remembers those early days when he saw a very good high school swimmer struggle to adapt to much fiercer competition.

Fortunately, those days are long over.

"He wasn't bad as a freshman, but he could have been better," Troy said. "He went from being the top one or two at his school state meet to going up against 15 to 20 SEC guys who could beat him.

"He is much better. He is bigger and stronger. I was telling someone that he can be a national-impact guy. He's the type of guy who can be an international player."

Palazzo, a mechanical engineering major, spends most of his time either studying or hanging out in the pool or in the weight room.

Despite his busy schedule, Palazzo has gotten a chance to enjoy the nicer weather and the view of many palm trees surrounding the area.

"I definitely love Florida," Palazzo said. "I used to live outside Orlando a long time ago. It's nice to see the sun shining every day. I try to be outside any time I can."

Palazzo got re-acquainted with an old friend at the National Championships in Indianapolis.

Paige Kelly, a swimmer for the University of Kentucky, was Palazzo's teammate at Hudson.

"I was really happy for her," Palazzo said. "It was her first national meet ever. We've been swimming together for seven or eight years.

"It's cool to have someone like her who knows what it's like to have swimming be a big part of your life."

Palazzo also keeps in touch with his former high school and club coach Matt Davis, who has guided many swimmers and divers to the state competition for more than a decade.

"I text Matt probably around once a week," Palazzo said. "I let him know what I'm doing. We talk a lot about our preparation for Nationals."

Both Palazzo and Kelly recently qualified for the US Open, which is scheduled for Aug. 2 to 6 at the Nassau County Aquatic Center in East Meadow, N.Y.

"I fell just short of my goal to make the World University Games," Palazzo said. "I just want to swim faster at the US Open. That will set me up for the next NCAA season."

Palazzo also has his eyes on a rather big prize. Let's just say this prize is not for a "small fish in a big pond."

"I think we have a really good shot at winning an NCAA title," Palazzo said. "That's the next big goal."

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