Destin Lasco’s quest to make the U.S. Olympic men’s swimming team has been postponed a year.
The Olympic Trials and the Summer Olympics have been moved back to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lasco, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound Mainland Regional High School senior and Linwood native, dominated New Jersey scholastic swimming his first three years but didn’t swim for the Mustangs this winter to prepare for the Olympic Trials.
Lasco has qualified for the trials in the 50-, 100- and 200-meter freestyle events, plus the 100 and 200 backstroke and the 200 individual medley.
Lasco will swim for the University of California-Berkeley next year. The Golden Bears won their third straight Pac-12 championship March 7, before the season was shut down.
Right now no one is swimming.
“It’s crazy,” said Lasco, 18. “I’m currently out of the water and doing extra dry land training with Dave Klemic (at Klemic Performance Method in Egg Harbor Township). I do cross-training, stretching and weights. I also have a rowing machine and also do jumps.”
Klemic is a former Mainland Regional High School and Northeastern University football and track and field standout, and later a wide receiver for the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs.
Lasco’s two swimming coaches, Jim Ellis, of Philadelphia, and Dimitar Petrov, of Ocean City, are also well known.
The 2007 movie “Pride” was based on Ellis’ story. The movie starred Terrence Howard (as Ellis), Bernie Mac and Tom Arnold. The story is about Ellis, who started a boys and girls swimming team for urban kids in 1971 in Philadelphia.
Ellis currently coaches Lasco at PDR Swimming for Success (Ellis said that PDR stands for pride, determination and resiliency) in Philadelphia.
Petrov is a former FINA world champion open water swimmer.
Lasco was The Press Boys Swimmer of the Year his first three years at Mainland. He set and reset several National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association public school meters records.
He led Mainland to the state Public B championship each year. He also won a total of six individual titles at the state individual swimming championships, which is commonly called the Meet of Champions.
But the senior decided to concentrate his efforts on the Olympic Trials this winter.
Without Lasco, Mainland, the four-time defending state Public B champion, still won its sixth straight South Jersey title and made it to the state final. The Mustangs lost to Montgomery 124-46 in the state title meet.
“I definitely would have liked to know that (that the trials would not be held) ahead of time, but you can’t control the future,” Lasco said. “Part of me felt bad because I really wanted to be a four-time state champion. The team did phenomenal getting to states. I made my decision because I wanted to know I did everything I could to make the Olympics. In high school, you swim about 15 dual meets and it’s really draining, and you lose a lot of training.
“Mr. Booth (Mainland coach Brian Booth) and Mr. Gatley (Mainland athletic director Mike Gatley) were so supportive of me, and I wanted to make them proud. I had their blessing, and that made it easier.”
Representlng PDR in mid-December, Lasco broke six meet records at the 33rd annual Eastern Express Holiday Classic at Rutgers University. He swam the 200-yard backstroke in a meet mark of 1 minute, 40.77 seconds, exactly one second faster than his previous personal best in the event.
His time of 54.00 in the 100 breaststroke was his personal best by 1.9 seconds, and his 1:45.42 in the 200 butterfly was 7.58 seconds better than his previous best. His other meet marks were in the 100 freestyle (43.55), 200 freestyle (1:35.42) and the 100 backstroke (47.10).
“He’s a remarkable young man, talented and focused,” said Ellis. “I’ve known him since he was 9. He’s a great kid. He doesn’t have a bad bone in his body.
“He’s in six events to make the Olympics, and that’s good stuff. He probably could have qualified in seven or eight if we had let him do them.”
Petrov has coached Lasco at the Pleasantville Aquatic Club for eight years.
“Destin is getting older, so we’re upgrading him to more mature swimming with yardage increases and tapering later,” said Petrov, who turned 49 on Saturday. “He’s doing more dry land workouts and working on specific things, like dive, quickness and power. Before the coronavirus, we were entering him in senior-level meets, competing with swimmers who will be in the Olympic Trials. Jim and I are on the same page (training Lasco), and we work very closely together.”
Petrov thinks the Olympics and trials postponements will be good for Lasco, because he’ll be bigger and stronger next year. Petrov also said the swimmer will benefit from training under Cal-Berkeley coach Dave Durden and competing against top college competition.
Klemic trains Lasco in things such as acceleration, reaction time, vertical leap and broad jumping.
“It’s tough because we practice social distancing and I stand behind a shield working with Destin,” said Klemic, a 41-year-old EHT resident.
“His vertical leap went from 28 inches to 32, and that will help him get off the block better.”
Lasco does his school work by computer before noon, trains during the day and does an hour yoga session at night.
Then he relaxes and plays video games.
“I’m going to stay positive and use the gifts God gave me,” Lasco said. “My four coaches (including Booth) have helped me so much, and next year in college I’ll have more great coaches. If I don’t make the Olympics, there’ll be another one in three more years, and I’ll try again.
“The coronavirus is a bump in the road. I’ll keep moving forward and keep going.”