Attention Ursuline High School freshman: there is not a swimming pool on the fourth floor.
Or is there?
“Everyone comes to me asking if I train there,” John Tomko said.
The rumor has been going around the Wick Avenue school for years, so much that swimming passes can be purchased from upperclassmen.
“I like to say to that I haven’t sold any of them,” Tomko says with a grin, “but if I did, I’d have given them their money back.”
Being the lone swimmer for the Fighting Irish, Tomko has been the source for all aquatic inquires. Being successful in the pool, too, has added to his hype.
Tomko finished 14th overall in the 200-yard freestyle in last year’s state championship meet. He’s also a consistent threat in the 500 freestyle.
“The longer the better, really,” he said.
At the state meet, he set a personal best of 1:47.21 in the 200-free during a consolation round.
“He’s swimming even faster now than he did at state,” his coach, Craig Yaniglos said. “He challenges me to make workouts harder because he’s always striving for more.
“He’s a phenomenal athlete who’s just a pleasure to coach.”
Tomko has already swam in the Mark Braun Invitational in Geneva and the Shaker Sharks meet in Cleveland, this past weekend. He’s earned three first place finishes as he tunes up for the Christmas Invitational — the state’s largest high school meet — in Canton on Dec. 15.
His motivation is both external and internal.
“I go in everyday wanting to be the best swimmer that I can,” he said. “Part of it comes from having done it so long, it’s almost become a part of me. Without that part, I feel like, well, what else can I do? I’ve been swimming for so long.
“Beating other people and at least competing with some of the best swimmers around, it’s a great motivator. To be the best that I can be, I have to go through barriers which is the top competition.”
Yaniglos has coached Tomko for nearly eight years, but he’s been involved with swimming much longer. His older sisters, Catherine and Claire, swam with the Hubbard Aquatic Club when they were in elementary school.
“I was 4 years old at that time,” Tomko said. “And you had to be at least 5 to swim with them. Throughout the whole first year my parents would tell me that I’d stand and watch from a balcony. I would always bug them saying, ‘Mom, dad, I really want to swim. I want to try that. It looks fun.’
“I dove in when I was five years old and never looked back.”
Now, more than ever, he’s looking ahead.
Tomko anticipates another run at the state meet with a potential to swim in college. He’s in the Ursuline band, National Honor Society and six Advanced Placement classes.
He has interest in Division I programs, like Ohio State, but could also end up at a Div. II or III school where juggling academics and athletics is more feasible.
Tomko wants to major in computer science.
“I’d like to be the guy working at Windows trying to program the next operating systems,” he said. “That’d be kind of cool.”