Freshman John Tomko practices with the Hubbard swim team and is treated like one of the Eagles.
The only difference is he competes for Ursuline. Tomko, who grew up attending St. Patrick School in Hubbard, is the lone Fighting Irish swimmer.
"We kind of knew this was going to happen. I'd prefer him go to Hubbard," said Hubbard coach Craig Yaniglos, who has been coaching Tomko since he was entering sixth grade. "He's only a second off of our school record. I always had a plan he's be swimming with our varsity. He's one of the faster people that we have.
"It's huge training benefit for him because other kids are training with other clubs or by themselves."
Tomko clocked 5 minutes, 16.20 seconds in the 500-yard freestyle (20 laps in the pool) at the recent Shaker Shark Invitational at the Busbey Natatorium on the campus of Cleveland State University. This event is part of the USA Swimming circuit. He does not compete in an Ohio High School Athletic Association schedule like most high school athletes, but prepares for the OHSAA postseason starting in mid February with some USA Swimming meets.
The OHSAA requires schools to have at least seven swimmers to constitute a team and compete in a regular-season prep schedule. Otherwise, swimmers like Tomko, have to find alternate paths to the postseason.
"With all the swimmers from Hubbard, I feel I'm basically part of their team," Tomko said. "Swimming for Ursuline isn't much of a difference besides the fact I don't go to all of their meets. I go to all their practices, all their extra activities, usually.
"Basically, I'm just another Hubbard swimmer. The only thing is I don't go to all of their meets and I don't get as many opportunities to swim. The only thing I can do is capitalize on the ones I have and try to exceed any expectations I have for myself."
Hubbard freshman Joey Spurio met Tomko four years ago when both of them started swimming at the Hubbard Community Pool.
"He's a great swimmer and a great teammate," Spurio said. "He's always there to support me and everyone else on the team. He's a good sport. He's a really great guy."
Tomko's goal is to dip under the 5-minute mark, which may get him into the OHSAA Division II state meet.
Thankfully, he has his Hubbard "teammates" encouraging him along the way.
"I just generally enjoy being around other people when I swim so I don't feel it's just boring," Tomko said. "Constantly having someone to motivate you is another motivation. I think it's definitely helped my swimming a lot. The more I keep up with them, the faster I'll keep going. As long as I have someone around me, I'll keep getting faster."