CLEVELAND - Ursuline junior John Tomko was Craig Yaniglos' first student coming out of college.
The two have been talking about reaching the Ohio High School Athletic Association state meet in Canton since the two first met.
Saturday, at the Division II district at Cleveland State University, Tomko notched a pair of fifth-place finishes in the 200-yard freestyle (1:48.16) and in the 500-yard freestyle (4:55.26).
The top two in each event automatically advance to state, but the next top 16 times from each event from the combined districts around the state also move on. Those at-large berths will be announced today.
Yaniglos thinks Tomko could move on in both of those events.
"It's like a dream come true," Yaniglos said. "John Tomko is my first swimmer I coached coming out of college. To see him to this point is totally amazing, from the time he was 10 or 11 years old to now in high school state. Ohio is kind of a fast swimming state, so it's kind of a big honor. It's kind of exciting to make it to Canton. It's all we've been talking about since eighth-grade year."
Tomko's training has been more endurance- and aerobic-based this season, Yaniglos said.
"He went in with a lot more confidence and I think that's definitely helping him achieving a lot of his goal times," Yaniglos said of Tomko, who made his third appearance at districts.
Tomko, who lives in Hubbard, isn't the only one from Eagles' territory that might be going to state.
Hubbard High School junior Joey Spurio was sixth in the 100 butterfly in a time of 54.31 seconds.
"I was really nervous about where I was going to end up in terms of placing," Spurio said. "As (Hubbard coach) Trish (Wirtz) and Craig told me to let it all out and leave it in the pool. Don't hold anything back. That's what I tried to do today."
That performance should get him down to Canton with Tomko.
"I'm really excited about going down there," Spurio said. "I think it will be a really good experience to go to state in my junior year."
Also, Cardinal Mooney senior Joe Boniface was the area's only automatic qualifier with a second-place finish in the 50 freestyle (21.68). He should make it in the 100 backstroke (sixth, 54.86) as well.
Canfield sophomore Daniel Bogan may go to state in the 100 freestyle (sixth, 48.52) and 200 freestyle (third, 48.52).
The Cardinals' 400 freestyle relay (fourth, 3:18.49), 200 freestyle relay (fourth, 1:29.77) and freshman Connor Brady in the 100 butterfly (fifth, 54.26) should advance as at-larges.
Youngstown Christian junior Mikayla Morrow was fifth in the girls 100 breaststroke.
As for those area swimmers from Penguin Swimming, they had some high marks as well.
Lakeview's Nicholas Preston (200 and 500 freestyle) and Grand Valley's Joey Ray (50 and 100 freestyle) both had lifetime bests, while Howland's Brandon Sekanick had an eighth-place finish in the 100 breaststroke.
"The three of them did very, very well," Penguin Swimming assistant coach Frank Supancic said.
Friday, in Division I, Howland swimmers, freshman Aimee Gysegem was seventh in the 500 freestyle (5:13.55) and ninth in the 200 freestyle (1:57.14). Senior Helena Kontos was 15th in the 50 freestyle (24.95) and 16th in the 100 freestyle (55.13).
"She was the only ninth grade girl on the podium for the 500 free, so that speaks volumes of her commitment of trying to get better at this sport," Supancic said of Gysegem.
Even if none of those area swimmers are represented next week at state, Supancic said it was still a successful season.
"There's an old saying, 'Swimming doesn't build character, it reveals character,'" Supancic said. "I think we found out a lot about ourselves this weekend at the district meet. In most cases, it was very positive.
"Taking it to state meet is good, but trying to get there is harder. That's the pressure of the district meet. There's no excuses. There's no luck. Either you're on it or you're not on it. If nobody makes it to the state meet, I don't take that as a dark mark against us. We have something to build on. We're a year more experienced, a year wiser and hopefully it will be reflective where some of these kids make it to the state meet."
As for Tomko, he'll try to get a little faster for Canton.
"He went a little bit faster this week," Yaniglos said. "It's kind of 50/50, but I think he can definitely go a little faster next week. In none of his events, yet, he's had nice time drops. There's still some hope out there that his yardage is still up and his training is still high, so there's some room to improve the next couple of days to see if he can drop time next week."