Harding boys eyeing another state bid

Sam Angelo’s perspective has changed.

When he entered the Warren G. Harding High School swimming program as a freshman, the last thing he thought about was qualifying for the state meet in Canton.

A few years later, making the trek to the C.T. Branin Natatorium is not only a possiblity. It’s expected.

“When I came in as a freshman, state was like the Olympics of high school swimming. Almost no one went,” Angelo said. “(Graduated senior) Alli (Thirion) went, but none of the guys had gone in a long time.”

That changed last season when the Raiders sent five athletes in graduated seniors Kieran Hernon and Vaughn Deuble, along with Angelo, junior Zackary Williams and sophomore Dylan Thirion as part of the 200-yard medley and 200 freestyle relays – both taking 20th in Division I.

Angelo, Williams and Thirion return on both relays. Freshman Mike Miller is the fourth member of the relay team.

“Man are those guys going fast,” said WGH coach Steve Lukco, whose 200 free relay team is posting quicker times than last year.

The medley relay needs some work, but hopes to get back to Canton.

“The medley has an outside shot,” said Lukco, whose team begins sectional action this weekend at the Ocasek Natatorium on the campus of the University of Akron. “We snuck in last year because somebody out west got DQed. We were the last spot at state. We’re hoping it doesn’t come that close.”

Along with the relays, Lukco said Thirion has a strong chance to make state in the 100 and 200 freestyle.

“I think anybody could coach that kid,” Lukco said. “He’s that good. He comes in here and works hard. He’s got that natural raw ability. I think he has an excellent chance to make it in the 100 and 200 free.”

Miller has lofty expectations in his 50 free and 100 butterfly.

“I’m hoping to go in that too and beat coach’s record,” Miller said of Lukco’s record set in 1985 of 52.7 seconds. “It’s been there forever.”

He’s also confident in his 50 free.

“I’m hoping to go to states in that and beat Zack,” Miller said.

Williams, who is excited about his 50 and 100 freestyle events, said Miller has been improving.

“I’m going to have to pick up my game because the last meet he was right there,” Williams said. “I didn’t expect it. He’s been catching up.”

Angelo, who is concentrating on his 100 butterfly, which has a good shot at state, said having a senior, junior, sophomore and freshman as main cogs of the boys team is vital to the growth of the program.

“A lot of that is the way coach Lukco has prepared the swim community for our high school team,” Angelo said. “He coaches at the Warren Olympic Club and coaches the U.S.A. Swim team out of here. Those are feeder programs for our high school team.

“We try to embrace them in the summer before our freshman year, so they feel like part of the team when they come in for their freshman year.”

For now, WGH is concentrating on the 200 free relay.

“We have more depth, which is nice,” Thirion said. “This won’t be our last time, going to states in this relay.”