By ANDREW WHITMER
Tribune Chronicle correspondent
CANTON - Immediately following his best and last performance of the season, Ursuline junior and Hubbard native John Tomko was already motivating himself for next year.
After swimming a person best 1:47.21 in the state consolation finals (heat one of two) of the 200-yard freestyle, Tomko positioned himself to watch the fast heat of the finals. Though he beat his personal best, set just the day before, by .7 seconds, Tomko's mind had already moved on.
"I think today tells me I can do that kind of thing (swim in heat two). I watch those guys swim and I don't see much different mechanically. I'm not the tallest person, but I can build the strength. It makes me want to go at that kind of speed.
"They are fast, but I would love to be at that level."
Tomko, who proudly measures at about 5-foot-7, didn't let height deter him in the consolation finals, however. Tomko said some swimmers alongside him in the first heat had six or seven inches on him.
"Sure, it's a disadvantage, but I have to overcome that barrier and make that next level regardless,"?he said.
As for the race itself, Tomko was surprised, after the first 100 yards, to find himself in the lead. Though he was better coming off the wall during turns than in preliminary competition, he felt his legs weakened toward the end.
"After my first 100 I could see out of the corner of my eye I was in the lead," he said. "I was kind of surprised and tried to hold on as best I could. My legs got a little weak on me, but overall I'm really happy."
Tomko finished 14th overall in the 200-yard freestyle. Canfield's Daniel Bogen, a sophomore, also competed in Tomko's heat, finishing with a time of 1:48.83. Bogen swam the 100-yard freestyle as well, placing 14th with a time of 48.7 seconds. Freshman Connor Brady rounded out the Cardinals' individual competitors, finishing 11th in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 54.06 seconds.
Canfield showed extremely well in its relay competitions, capped by the performance of its 400-yard freestyle team of Bogen, Michael DiDomenico, Mark Darwin, and Nicholas Montalto all swimming their best splits en route to a seventh-place finish (3:15.83).
"Everybody loves that 400 free relay," coach Andrea Linnelli said. "You always hope your kids can keep it together because the pressure is so great but you could just see our kids thriving on it."
For Cardinal Mooney, senior Joe Boniface wrapped up his career with a sixth-place overall finish in the 50-yard freestyle. Boniface came in at a time of 21.58 seconds, with fifth place (21.54) and fourth place (21.53) just out of reach. The state championship time was 21.13 seconds; longer fingernails could have meant gold for Boniface.
"The 50-free is a tough race; everything's got to be perfect," he said. "There were three 21.5s. But this is really great. My goal this year was to make the final and I did that. I really don't think it could have ended better."
MIXED DAY FOR WGH: In Friday morning's Division I state preliminary competition, Warren G. Harding scored two 20th-place finishes in the 200-yard medley relay and the 200-yard freestyle, but failed to qualify for finals competition today.
Vaughn Deuble, Dylan Thirion, Kieran Hernon, and Sam Angelo comprised the Raiders' 200 medley team while sophomore Zachary Williams joined Hernon, Thirion, and Deuble for the freestyle.
"In the 200 medley relay we dropped times and were happy with that," coach Steve Lukco said. "We set a good tone for the day."
In the 200-yard freestyle relay, however, things didn't go quite as expected.
"We may have been a little too amped up," Lukco said. "We swam well but not as fast as we thought. Our starts weren't perfect and when you're swimming a bunch of 50s (legs of the race) with hard turns things need to be clicking 100 percent.
"So, no tomorrow (finals) for us, but a very successful season. Our seniors led by example and worked hard and this was a good experience for our underclassmen, too. We're moving in the right direction and ultimately we're happy with everything."