HUBBARD - Ursuline's John Tomko and Hubbard's Joey Spurio had an awakening last year.
The senior swimmers, then juniors, qualified as at-large participants for the state swim meet in Canton.
"Last year, me and John were new to the entire state scene," Spurio said. "So we were a little timid when it came to going in together and fairing against everyone else. We swam at a completely different level than we have been used to. This year we're going in confident that we're going to place well and we're going to have some really good swims.
"This year, we're really excited to finish out our senior years together at state - hopefully swimming fast and doing well."
Tomko finished second in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle events at last weekend's Division II district at Cleveland State University. Spurio won the 100-yard butterfly at CSU (51.99 seconds). Tomko and Spurio each swam in those events at last year's state meet. This year, they were automatic state qualifiers for being in the top two at districts.
Tomko is ranked fifth in the 200 and sixth in the 500, while Spurio is fifth in the 100 butterfly at state. The Division II state meet begins with the preliminaries tonight. The finals are Friday at the C.T. Branin Natatorium.
State swim meet
C.T. Branin Natatorium, Canton
9 a.m. Girls Division I diving
5 p.m. Girls and boys Division II preliminaries
9 a.m. Girls and boys Division I preliminaries
5 p.m. Girls and boys Division II finals
9 a.m. Boys Division I diving
5 p.m. Girls and boys Division I finals
DIVISION I BOYS: Dylan Thirion (Warren G. Harding), 100 freestyle; Ryan Bailey (Boardman), 100 butterfly, 100 breaststroke.
DIVISION I GIRLS: Aimee Gysegem (Howland) 500 freestyle; Emily Thirion (Warren G. Harding), 100 breaststroke, 100 butterfly; Boardman's 200 and 400 freestyle relays.
DIVISION II BOYS: John Tomko (Ursuline) 200 and 500 freestyle; Joey Spurio (Hubbard) 100 butterfly; Brandon Sekanick (Howland), 100 breaststroke; Canfield's 200 and 400 freestyle relays; Nicholas Moltanlto (Canfield), 50 and 100 freestyle; Connor Brady (Canfield) 100 backstroke, 100 butterfly; Daniel Bogen (Canfield) 100 and 200 freestyle.
DIVISION II GIRLS: Taylor Tolfi (Cardinal Mooney) 100 butterfly.
"Last year was more of nailbiter," said Tomko, who clocked a 1:43.93 in the 200 and 4:43.19 in the 500 at districts. "I believe I finished fifth in both events. I was right on the border there. I wasn't sure I was going to make it. I was kind of sure, but not 100 percent. Most of my anxiety came the next day, the Saturday and Sunday while I was awaiting the results from the other districts."
Spurio had to endure some of that waiting this year. Currently the school's record holder in the 200 individual medley, he switched to the 200 freestyle and almost made it to state. The top 24 in the state go in each district event, but Spurio's time put him 25th. Oak Harbor's Ben Dresser got the last at-large bid in that event (1:48.88). Spurio swam 1:48.90.
"To be honest, I never pegged Joe as a 200 freestyler because he's been working so hard at the 200 IM as well as the 100 fly," Tomko said. "He swam the 200 free two times throughout the year and each time he got progressively faster.
"I looked at his splits from sectionals and he brought his last 50 faster than I did. I guess it was match no one noticed until this year that he could be a great 200 freestyler."
It's not surprising the two know each other well since they are both from Hubbard and grew up swimming together at the Hubbard Swim Club.
Tomko, who has been a staple in the distance events, noticed Spurio was a diversified swimmer with a proficiency for the speed swims.
"I started to see he was very good and so am I," Tomko said. "It was like a dynamic duo at that point. Since then, we've good friends swimming together, hanging out."
Since Tomko is the only Ursuline swimmer, he usually goes to events with Hubbard.
"We sort of formed a brotherhood up there, like a bond together where we kept that relationship throughout the years," Spurio said. "John was always a distance swimmer and I picked it up in the IM strokes (the butterfly, breaststroke and the backstroke), while John swam the freestyle events. We kind of rounded out a combination together when we swam.
"For the past eight years, we've always been there for each other as we swam at the various championships. We'd always cheer for each other and motivate each other in different ways, trying to help each other out when we could so that we could get the success we both wanted to have."
This year, both are planning to have plenty of success.
"Knowing that I'm going, qualifying with automatic times, is a huge weight off my back," Tomko said. " I think it's a lot more relaxed, a lot more confident this year."