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From North Tonawanda to college for three; Stars in swimming, baseball, bowling go to next level

Right behind a church, that's where her college future led the whole time.

Andrea Parish never even realized it. But when the North Tonawanda swimming star began looking at Lafayette (Pa.) College, she connected the dots.

The Lafayette coach, Jim Dailey, grew up one street away from her.

"He lives on Ruie, and I live on Woodbury," Parish said. "It's just funny because his mom walks her dog around my house all the time, and I never even knew who he was."

Flanked by parents and coaches, three North Tonawanda high school stars recently turned the page. Bri Larson (bowling), Jesse Puscheck (baseball) and Parish (swimming) all signed pseudo letters of intent. They'll take their talents to different Division I schools throughout the country.

Larson is heading to Pikeville (Ky.), while Puscheck stays near home at Canisius College.

Parish, the valedictorian of her class, had a laundry list of college choices. After reaching States in the 100 freestyle, 100 breaststroke and 200 free relay, she was full of options.

Balancing college life won't be a problem for her after finishing on top academically. Parish will major in biology.

Her approach has always been businesslike.

"A lot of discipline," Parish said. "I'm used to it. I've been swimming since I was 9."

"She's very driven and competitive," Lumberjacks coach Ashley Clingersmith added. "I saw that from Day One in the pool. She would swim in her own lane all the time and really push herself. She'd get up there, was very confident and never let nerves get to her."

Larson has been prepping for this moment awhile. She realized bowling could take her to college way back as a sophomore, after a 758 game in her hometown. Right then, Larson knew this was more than a hobby. She promptly advanced to States as a sophomore, junior and senior, and narrowed college choices down to McKendree (Ill.) University and Pikeville.

This past season, she led North Tonawanda to a 13-1 record and a Niagara Frontier League title. Her 221.71 season average broke the league record.

Pikeville's coach saw Larson compete during a tournament in Detroit the summer after her sophomore year. And the interest was mutual. She decided on Pikeville after earning an extra $1,500 scholarship per year.

"The campus is small," Larson said. "There's not a lot of people, so you're really one-on-one with your professors. It's in the middle of a mountain, so it's really pretty. I wanted a nice coach, a nice bowling team and a small campus in a nice area."

As for Puscheck, he's itching to get back onto the diamond already. Rather than weigh options from schools across the country, he eyed schools in his backyard.

At Canisius, he will study sports medicine.

"I just can't wait to get back on the field again," Puscheck said. "It's a fresh start in college. Everything from the past is erased. You need to make a new name for yourself."

Puscheck never really thought about playing in college until people start raving about his swing. It was smooth, deliberate. Soon, he had the option to attend all three of the areas premier programs: Canisius, the University at Buffalo and Niagara University.

Canisius made the most sense.

"Hopefully I can go in and make an impact right away," Puscheck said. "I'm pretty sure they have a third baseman, but there's always something to work for, always a spot in the lineup."

This spring, Puscheck batted .400 with three home runs and 15 RBIs. Jacks coach Tony Ruffolo said Puscheck hits the ball as crisply as anyone he's had.

"He works out the count real well and doesn't strike out much," Ruffolo said. "He'll make an impact right away at Canisius. He's a hard worker."

And now, albeit in different parts of the country, this trio of North Tonawanda athletes will be linked together for the next four years.