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Howland, Hubbard athletes looking to D-II district meet

Jared Mindek looked around the Robert F. Busbey Natatorium. The Howland High School junior has been there twice before.

Mindek has the fastest 100-yard breaststroke heading into today’s Division II district swimming meet on the campus of Cleveland State University.

The echoes start ringing around him. The Howland junior feels the energy around him, just before diving off his platform to enter the water in his lane.

“The district meet is one of my favorite meets during high school,” Mindek said. “The environment is just amazing to swim at considering it is held at CSU. There’s always going to be pressure, but I try to put it aside and just focus on the little stuff that will help my race be the best it can be.”

He’s been to state the past two years in this event, finishing fifth last season. The top two in each district event automatically advance to state, while the top times in other events in the four districts get at-large berths.

The 200 individual medley, he missed going to state in this event last season at district by 2.01 seconds.

“So if I get around my best (1:59.15) or even faster, then I know my chances will be good,” Mindek said.

Hubbard sophomore Dominic Panozzo made it to districts in the 100 and 200 freestyle events.

He swam the school record at sectionals with 49.29. Panozzo hopes to win around 48 to 49 seconds.

Meanwhile, he’s hoping to go around 1:48 to 1:49 in the 200. He’s already swimming around 1:50.

Making next week’s state meet at the C.T. Branin Natatorium in Canton would mean a lot to him.

“It has been a dream of mine to make state and place somewhat decent,” Panozzo said. “It would mean that all my hard work has finally paid off. I’m also hoping that if I make states, it will motivate young people at my school to try swimming. Swimming has become more and more prevalent in our school because of all of my best friends and I. After this year’s freshmen, there aren’t many kids from Hubbard that will be swimming.

“For example, we won our first high school conference meet in almost 30 years. It has brought so much life to the sport at our school, and I hope by making states that it will help our club even more.”

He said it’s a mental sport. Before this district meet, he’ll eat protein, plenty of carbohydrates, along with taking an ice bath.

“When I’m at the swim meet, I visualize and pick out every detail in my head whether that be fast turnovers on my flip-turns, my head position, or even how often I breathe,” Panozzo said.

Mindek is pushing himself to secure a NCAA Division I scholarship next season. He’d like to go to somewhere like Florida State, Ohio State or the University of Tampa.

For now, Mindek has all eyes on the district meet with the best time in the 100 breaststroke.

He won a sectional title last week. Mindek would like to add a district title today.

“It would me a lot to me,” he said. “I put countless hours of hard work in this swim season and it will show me that it’s all paying off.”

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