CANTON - John Tomko finished last year's Division II boys 200-yard freestyle in 14th place in the consolation finals.
He managed to stick around poolside and watch the finals, as the top eight competitors in that event swim at the state meet.
Tomko, now an Ursuline High School senior, knew that the top eight is where he wanted to be in 2013.
On Friday, he made that dream happen as he took eighth in the event at the C.T. Branin Natatorium.
"First off it, it's appropriate," Tomko said. "Last year when I finished off the consolation final a reporter asked me, 'So I saw you watching the 200 last heat of finals, wouldn't you like to be there? Can you see yourself working that hard?' I thought, 'Yea, that would be nice. I don't know if I'll be there or not.' I made that my goal. Just being in that heat was the ultimate goal.
"It's really incredible. I'm more than OK with it. It was fun."
Tomko wasn't a well-known name or didn't come from a swimming powerhouse like Hawken. Because of that, he said he had a lot to overcome to get to the podium.
"It's a journey," said Tomko, who clocked at 1:45.08. "I know I have a boundary to come over with my height (5 feet, 7 inches), boundary to overcome being the only swimmer from my school. I feel I might not necessarily be the top on that podium, but I know how hard I worked to get there.
"Just being on that podium, even if I'm on the lowest step down, I'm OK with that - as long as I'm up there. I know how hard I had to work. I can't say I worked harder than anyone else, but I worked very hard. I know a lot of people work very hard too. It's just so rewarding."
Hubbard senior Joey Spurio, who finished 18th in the 100 butterfly last year, was in the consolation final this year. He took 13th in a time of 53.33.
"This is a really good way to end my senior year, to go into this completely new environment for me and preparing for college swimming after I graduate," said Spurio, who is going to compete for Westminster College next season.
As for Tomko, he didn't make state in the 500 freestyle last year, but did so this season and finished ninth in the 500 (4:46.19) - first in the consolation final. If he was in the finals, that time would've been good enough for sixth place.
"I didn't make at all there last year, so this is an improvement," Tomko said. "Since this is the consolation final, all I have to do is go out and have fun. Whatever, I'm OK with it."
It was a fun Friday for Tomko. Well, except for one thing in the 200 freestyle.
"As much fun as you can have without air," Tomko said. "I swallowed water coming off the third flip turn, that wasn't too fun.
"Everything else is pretty nice."