Warren G. Harding seniors Kieran Hernon and Vaughn Deuble have waited until the twilight of their high school careers to reap the ultimate success - reaching the state swimming tournament in Canton.
Hernon, Deuble, freshman Dylan Thirion, junior Sam Angelo and sophomore Zackary Williams comprise the Raiders two relays beginning competition at 9 a.m. Friday in the Division I preliminaries at the C.T. Branin Natatorium.
All five have come up through the Warren Harding Aquatics Team, which WGH coach Steve Lukco mentors as well. All five swam year round and been part of WHAT as well, which encompasses grade school to WGH High School athletes in a program run in the spring and summer.
"Their hard work and dedication is a testament to WHAT can be accomplished with hard work and determination to be the best," Lukco said.
This is the most athletes WGH has sent to state since coach Craig Charnas took five boys to Canton in 2000.
"The WHAT program is a direct feeder to our high school swim team and is paramount to our continued success at the high school level," Lukco said.
WHAT: State Swimming Tournament.
WHERE: C.T. Branin Natatorium, Canton.
PRELIMINARIES: 5 p.m., today, Division II; 9 a.m., Friday, Division I.
FINALS: 5 p.m., Friday, Division II; 4 p.m., Saturday, Division I.
AREA QUALIFIERS: Division I boys 200-yard medley relay, Harding; Boardman; 200 freestyle relay, Harding; Ryan Bailey, Jr., Boardman, 100 butterfly, 100 breaststroke; Division I girls 200 medley relay, Boardman; Division II boys Joe Boniface, Mooney, Sr., 50 freestyle, 100 backstroke; Joey Spurio, Hubbard, Jr., 100 butterfly; John Tomko, Urusline, Jr.; 200 and 500 freestyle; Connor Brady, Canfield, Fr., 100 backstroke; 400 freestyle relay, Canfield; 200 freestyle relay, Canfield; Daniel Bogan, Canfield, So., 100 freestyle, 20 freestyle; Division II girls Mikayla Morrow, Youngstown Christian, Jr., 100 breaststroke.
For the 200-yard medley relay, which is 23rd out of 24 teams entered, and the 200 freestyle relay, which is ranked 14th, the five WGH athletes are looking for success on Friday.
The top eight in each event advances to finals.
The 200 freestyle relay may make Saturday's finals.
"I think we have a good shot of making it on to finals if we can drop a little bit more," Hernon said. "Coach Lukco thinks we can make it to finals and into the top five."
The medley relay was a bit of a surprise to Thirion, Deuble, Angelo and Hernon. Thirion, Deuble, Hernon and Williams swim in the freestyle relay.
"As far as the medley, we were going to give it everything we've got and come out with our heads up high," Deuble said. "We all knew that one would be really close."
Ursuline junior John Tomko (200 and 500 freestyle) and Hubbard junior Joey Spurio (100 butterfly) have trained together for quite a while and, like the WGH swimmers, made state.
"It's a good feeling knowing I made it, but it's even better knowing I made it with him," said Tomko, heading into today's Division II preliminaries. "It's kind of appropriate because we've been working hard together for a long time now. It's nice to know I got there, but it's nice to know I have a friend coming with me."
"We pump up each other for we swim and cheer for each other, which motivates us to do our best," Spurio said. "We're always training with each other and bring out the best in each other in practices, meets and offseason as well."
Tomko's offseason workouts have made him more prepared this season.
"Last year my training didn't get me ready for how grueling the event were," Tomko said. "It got me used to hurting in the water and I got used to that and what swims were going to feel like. Especially training for districts, I got a few seconds faster at least from sections to districts - working on how the swims would feel."
Tomko is 19th in his events. Spurio is 21st.
"We're trying to get a feel of how everything works as far as competition-wise and how we place," Spurio said. "We're hoping to get a lot of motivation out of this experience, so we can train harder and drop times so next year we can have even better showings."
This year, WGH's 200 freestyle relay has had better showings week in and week out.
"Every meet if one guy had the fastest split on the relay and the other one didn't go as fast as he would've like to," Deuble said. "The next couple of days, the guy who didn't get as fast as he wanted to would work twice as hard in practice."