WGH’s swim team has great performance at districts

CLEVELAND – Warren G. Harding swimming coach Steve Lukco has been waiting for this day since he took over five years ago.

After the Division I district swimming meet at Cleveland State University on Saturday, his hopes and dreams for the Raiders’ program are coming to fruition.

If the at-large berths happen, Harding will have one diver (Corey Butts), two individual swimmers (Emily and Dylan Thirion) and the WGH boys 200-yard freestyle relay at state.

The top two in each district final and the next fastest 16 times from around the state in all the districts qualify for next week’s state swim meet in Canton. At-large berths will be announced sometime today.

“We’re thrilled. We had a great day,” said Lukco, who is poised to have the most state qualifiers since he’s coached in the Harding program. “I think all but one of our swims were lifetime bests. Our kids performed really well.”

Junior Emily Thirion finished second in the girls 50-yard freestyle (24.07 seconds). Mentor’s Maria McCoy won the event in a time of 23.99.

She has a chance to get out in the 100 breaststroke, where she took seventh (1:06.41). Boardman’s Brooke Bailey took fifth in that event (1:05.94).

Dylan Thirion took fourth in the boys 50 freestyle (21.33) and 100 freestyle (46.46).

“Both of his times should make it. I’ll be shocked if they didn’t,” Lukco said.

Harding’s 200 freestyle relay of Thirion, Michael Miller, Zackary Williams and Nathan Marchek took fifth 1:27.13.

Lukco said 1:29 made it last year to state.

“I believe that relay will make it as well,” he said.

If the relay team makes it to state, it will be a turnaround from last year where the WGH 200 free relay was disqualified for a false start at sectionals.

“This is the fourth year in a row our free relay has made it or had a chance to make it,” Lukco said. “Last year we got DQed, but we would’ve made it.

“We keep reloading. We lose one kid here, bring in another kid. It’s a testament to our feeder program and how hard our kids work.”

With Saturday’s performances, it’s a testament to Harding’s youth program the Warren Harding Aquatics Team.

“I’ve been begging to get publicity for the WHAT team and this is the best publicity I can get for it. That’s our team that pipelines to high school,” Lukco said.

HOPING FOR STATE BERTHS: Howland junior Aimee Gysegem finished fourth in the girls 200 freestyle (5:11.45) and fifth in the 200 freestyle (1:55.41).

“We were hoping she’d be a little bit faster. She had pretty good placing. We’re just going to have to wait it out,” said Craig Yaniglos, who coached Gysegem through Penguin Swimming.

The Division I and II districts were Friday (D-II) and Saturday (D-I) morning at CSU. The northwest district was on Friday and Saturday evening at CSU.

“The kids typically don’t swim as well in the morning,” Yaniglos said. “That’s why prelims are in the morning and finals are at night. Kids get faster at night. I think that’s partially a disadvantage. Throughout the whole high school season they typically swim right after school.

“Then, you ask them to swim early in the morning.”

Yaniglos is hoping Gysegem gets a chance at redemption next week at state.

“Her first half of the races came back really good,” he said. “They showed really good signs. It was the last half of the race. It’s really unusual for her because she’s a great back half swimmer. That wasn’t there today.

“I hope she gets into state and be able to burn the back half in next week and she’ll be fine. From calculations so far, it’s going to be tight (for her to qualify).”

OTHER AREA TIMES: Boardman’s Jessica Hilk took fifth in the 100 butterfly (58.45) and the Spartans 200 freestyle relay took sixth (1:49.31).