Passion To Swim Fuels Lucas To Get Back To State

St. Marys’ senior Kyle Lucas was a 2018-19 state qualifier in boys breaststroke and will look to make it back to Canton again this season.
Sports Editor

Kyle Lucas loves to swim and that passion is driving him heading to his senior season and beyond. 

A state-qualifier last season, Lucas — who does not compete in any other St. Marys sports after trying cross-country, track and soccer in the past — said he was told by his mother that he needed to play a sport in high school. He said he hated baseball so he decided to try a different sport such as swimming.

“I just fell in love it and now that is all I want to do,” he said. “I have done a little bit of everything, but I would rather specialize and get really good at one thing instead of being average in a bunch of different things.”

Lucas said what he likes about swimming is that it is an individual-team sport where he can swim for himself, but at the same time, he is still swimming for his team.

“Your triumphs are your own and they help the team, but you don’t hurt the team either,” he said. “It’s less subjective too. The numbers don’t lie because you can look up and see if someone is faster than you.”

The senior leads a 200-yard medley relay quartet including Austin Hertenstein, Charlie Krebs and Xander Spees who became the first St. Marys swimmers to qualify for a state swim meet last year since the 200 medley relay team of Jared Deubler, Matt Hollman, Dakota Braun and Noah Hartsock in 2013.

And despite the finish — two swimmers were disqualified and the quartet did not finish as strong as they did in districts the week before — Lucas said making it to state last year was a good experience, yet also a learning one for a program who has been on the rise the last few years.

Kate Szymczak — who took over the program in time for the 2015-16 school year — helped turn a boys program that was ninth in the WBL just two years ago to fourth two seasons ago and second last year before leaving the program.

“That was probably the most rewarding thing, in my opinion,” Lucas added. “My freshman year we were ninth and I remember think, ‘ man, I wish I had done better, but at the same time I also wished the team would have done better. It is really hard to make a jump from ninth to second in two years.

“That took a lot from everyone. Everyone bought in.”

The Roughriders squeaked by with the medley relay team qualifying for state with a time of 1:42.82 for eighth place at the Division II Northwest District Swim Meet — qualifying by .10th of a second. 

“It was a really good experience to make it,” Lucas said. “I feel like it was definitely a learning experience because I didn’t do what I wanted to do last year but thankfully we have a year to get back and be where I should have been at.”

Lucas also qualified in the breaststroke — his main swimming event — with a time of 1:00.99 — resetting his own school record, achieving a YMCA National Cut and was seeded 14th out of 24 swimmers in the breaststroke event. 

He said he was hoping to make second-team all-state in Canton last year, but fell short with a 20th-place finish 

The top 16 swimmers finish second team.

“That was a little frustrating,” he said when describing how he felt where he finished last year.

But in his final high school season, he believes he can be on the cusp of making first or second team. 

A four-time YMCA national qualifier, Lucas said he has only taken a combined five weeks off from swimming over the last three years heading into his senior season.

“It’s a sport where you can’t swim your best in every meet,” Lucas said. “You have a few shots to swim your best, but with as much training as you do, your body is always broken down and you can’t go you best during the season. So to see all of that work pay off — I started swimming in the beginning of September and I am not going to have any rest and swim to the best of my ability until February — so it is so rewarding to see that six months of work build and build and build and then in February, you blow your times out of the water.

“It’s like when people talk about a runner’s high, it is that same thing and I love the team aspect of it too. I really love my teammates.”

Lucas credited St. Marys native and best friend Justin Fleagle — a two-time YMCA National Champion who committed to Ohio State to follow his brother Josh — for his love of swimming.

“We are teammates, we have been on relays since we were little and I think more than being inspired by someone who is already on top, Justin, myself and Keaton McMurray from Celina practice together every day,” Lucas said. “Obviously, we are all at different levels, but we feed off each other. When you see Justin working hard, then I want to work hard and I would consider that inspirational. 

“The energy we have really feeds off on each other and we are starting to build a culture of excellence more so the little kids are working harder, they see the big kids working hard so they want to work hard.”

To read the full story, see Thursday's print edition of The Evening Leader.