Harding, Boardman, Canfield swimmers motivated for season
YOUNGSTOWN — Steve Lukco saw what he hasn’t seen in some time at the end of last swimming season — no state qualifiers.
This year, the Warren G. Harding Raiders return its team from last year — a junior, handful of juniors and the rest freshmen and sophomores.
Little more experience and hopefully that translates into something this season.
“I told them that’s the first time we haven’t gone to state in a long time,” said Lukco, the team’s coach. “There’s our year off. We want to go back next year.”
The trio of junior — Lydia Walls, Mia Mowatt-Larssen and Katie McBane — are the team’s leaders. Maybe with an underclassman, the Raiders can put together a strong relay or two.
Walls is a two-time district qualifier, while Mowatt-Larssen and McBane went there last year. Walls is strong in the 50-yard freestyle and 100 butterfly.
Sophomore Brendan Leecue, who is strong in the 100 butterfly, is coming off a successful freshman year.
“He never worked that hard in his life and you can see the results of what they hard work can do,” said Lukco, whose team was at a NEAC quad meet with Canfield, Boardman and Wooster at the Beeghly Natatorium at Youngstown State University.
Tino DiCenso looks to contribute as well.
Then, there’s divers Ty Loudin and Alex Johnson — both district qualifiers.
“They’re doing real well diving,” Lukco said. “We’re really excited for them. They’re a big part of our team. They get us points every meet.”
As for Boardman, the Spartans are used to putting up plenty of points.
Boardman returns pretty much the same group as last year, minus a few seniors.
“Strength-wise, we should be where we were last year or a little ahead,” Boardman coach Terry O’Halloran said.
Boardman has a strong group this year — one led by senior Callen Aulizia, who finished third in the 50 freestyle and seventh in the 100 freestyle at the Division I state championships in Canton. The 400 freestyle relay of Aulizia, senior Kyle Kimerer and sophomores Matthew DunLany and Noah Basista, which took seventh at state, all return.
Boardman finished 10th at state. The Spartans look to do more this season.
“We have some terrific boys,” O’Halloran said. “I’m hoping to get back to the state meet with them, get them in finals.”
Boardman’s Mikel Flatley, Sarah Murray and Jennah Markovitch are a few of the names to watch.
O’Halloran expects a surge out of his girls side the second half of the season.
“When they rest a little bit and get a little more aggressive, we should be good there, too,” he said.
However, the boys team is strong for the Spartans.
“Depth-wise, best group of boys that I’ve had,” O’Halloran said. “Because of that, they practice really hard against each other. They should go faster.
“We had a terrific year with them last year. We’re looking to repeat.”
Meanwhile, Connor Brady wanted to give something back to a Canfield program he powered in his team with the Cardinals.
The 21-year-old made it to state all four years at Canfield and had plenty of hardware to show for it.
He spent one season at Cincinnati, but wanted something more. Brady now coaches the Cardinals program.
“I knew I was a younger coach, I knew a lot about the program,” Brady said. “Having swam one year in college, I knew there was a lot of new, exciting things I could bring my home team. I really wanted to support my home team and work with a lot of swimmers as much as I could.”
His younger brother, Cullen, and Kamran Sarac are two of the leaders on the boys side.
Sydney Schuler and Jordan Helmick are two names to watch for the girls.
Connor’s goals is to have more fun than this team has had in past years and showcase Canfield’s talent.
“We went back to our roots and focused on some of the basics of swimming, hoping to see if we can get some of the best technique in the pool this year,” Connor said. “Our goal is to have some of the most beautiful strokes in this side of Ohio.
“I think we’re young team, but we’re very strong this year.”