By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
LINWOOD — There shouldn’t have been much excitement late in Thursday’s swim meet between Absegami and host Mainland. It’s early in the season, and Mainland was ahead by large margins on both the boys and girls side. But a buzz rippled through the crowd prior to the boys’ 400-meter freestyle event.
Destin Lasco was going for another national record.
Mainland’s super sophomore — who already owned two individual and two relay national records heading into this season — is more a sprinter than a distance guy, and only swam the 400 a time or two last season. But even then he came within a few hundredths of a second of breaking the record, so when Mustangs coach Brian Booth heard Lasco wanted to go for the 400 record against Absegami, he had no reason to doubt it was entirely possible.
Lasco clocked in at 3:53.30 — breaking the old national mark of 3:54.88 and adding to the mystique that has surrounded him in a little more than one high school swim season. Mainland’s pool is certified, so the record will become official pending verification by the National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association.
Lasco also cruised to a win in the 200 IM and anchored the winning 400 free relay team as the Mustangs (3-0) blitzed Absegami 127-42. The Mainland girls won, 134-36, paced by Danielle Schuster’s wins in the 200 IM and 400 free. Grace Gallagher tied teammate Valerie Speirs in the 50 free, and Gallagher also was a part of two winning relay teams, in the 200 medley and 200 free.
“He can do anything. He’s one of those gifted swimmers. He only swam that event once last year, at the Cape-Atlantic League Championships. And without even knowing what the national record was, he only missed it by eight one-hundredths of a second. So, he decided he was going to go after it. And you can’t put anything past this kid,” Booth said. “Being as close as he was last year — it wasn’t something I was thinking of today when I put him in that event — but he just came back from a huge meet in Tennessee where he swam really well, and he was in a great state of mind. He’s happy with how he’s swimming. About halfway through the meet he said, ‘yeah, I’m going to go after it.’ And you just shake your head and say, ‘go for it. Let’s see what you got.'”
“The 400 free is an event I adopted about a year ago because in USA swimming, I really wanted my back half in my 200 to be better, so the more distance you do, the faster your back half gets,” said Lasco, whose older brother, Glenn, also is on the team and won the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke. “So, I adopted the 400 this year to really go for it and help me with my other strokes.”
Lasco said once he got it in his mind that he was going to go for the national record, some nerves settled in.
“It was nerve wracking. My dad texted me and said, ‘you were close last time, why don’t you go get it this time?’ I was like, ‘I don’t know, dad. I was studying until midnight last night. I don’t know if I can do it.’ But just seeing everyone on the sideline, that really pushed me. I was like, ‘OK, I was close last year. Let’s get it this time,'” he said. “I knew if I was going to get the record, I would have to do it in the back half. I just kept my head down, kept my kick going. I just had to push through it. My lungs were burning, but no pain, no gain, as they say. This took me by surprise because I just came back from a big meet and I’m still in taper mode. But, I was like, might as well just go for it and see what happens. I’m really proud and I’m thankful for my teammates and my brother. That helps mentally. The 400 is a grueling race, but I was racing for my teammates, my coaches and my family, and everybody who supports me.”
“He’s a great swimmer. I swim with him and he works really hard at practice,” said Absegami senior Justin Yin, who is club teammates with Lasco at Pleasantville Aquatics. “He deserves it. His times are surprising. It’s shocking to see how fast he goes, but I know he can do it.”
Mainland, which is coming off back-to-back 15-0, state championship seasons, also got individual wins from Liam Garbutt, Joey Rogers, Nick DiNofrio and Erik Truong, and the Mustangs have easily beaten Ocean City, Holy Spirit and Absegami to start the season. But there still are some big holes to fill from last season’s graduating class.
“The vibe is good. We’re positive and the boys are excited,” Booth said. “We still feel like we have a lot of pieces to a good puzzle to be successful. We’re still moving some things around and learning about the new kids, but the outlook is really good still for us.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays