SCRANTON — Scranton Prep senior swimmer Nico Lastauskas broke two pool records during meets at the University of Scranton’s Byron Complex this season, but it’s a far less glamorous moment that comes to his mind first.
“My first meet as a freshman was big for me,” he said. “During my first event my goggles fell off, but I didn’t let it bother me. I was in the 500 freestyle after that and I out-touched a kid by a half-second to win the race. I’ll never forget that meet.”
Lastauskas broke the pool record in the 500 freestyle against Holy Cross on Dec. 23 and in the 200 freestyle against West Scranton on Jan. 25.
“The pool records were big,” he said. “I really wanted to get my name on that board.”
Lastauskas, 17, began swimming with the Abington Gators at the age of six and was hooked on the sport ever since.
“I really liked swimming for the Gators,” he said. “They had a lot of good coaches and I looked up to many of the older kids. They were role models and inspired me to start swimming more.”
At age nine, Lastauskas started swimming under Scranton Prep head coach Joe Thier with the Blue Dolphin Aquatics program.
“When I was with the Gators, my strokes were very short and choppy,” Lastauskas said. “Joe really helped me get them longer, and that’s when I started taking off more and saw huge drops in my time.”
The Clarks Summit resident believes he’s made significant improvements throughout the years and is looking forward to the future.
“When I started off, I wasn’t necessarily the greatest swimmer talent-wise,” Lastauskas said. “As the years went on, I’ve had a lot of laughs in the pool and put in a lot of hard work. I feel like I’m in a good position now and I’m really looking forward to continuing that in college.”
Although Lastauskas competes in the 200 individual medley, 200 and 500 freestyle, and 100 breaststroke, he most enjoys the 500 free.
“I’ve been doing that (event) since I was a freshman and I’ve qualified for states for three years in it,” he said. “I like it because it’s 20 laps and you get time to pace yourself.”
Thier has witnessed Lastauskas’ growth as a swimmer over the past eight years and noticed a significant spike in his productivity this season.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to coach him for almost half his life,” Thier said. “It’s been quite a privilege to watch him grow as a young boy into of a man. This year has really been a giant step for him. He’s come out of his shell and has really stood out in every event as opposed to just a few. He swims all four strokes well, and could potentially go into any event this season and be successful, at least locally.”
Lastauskas qualified for the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) meet in the 200 individual medley and 500 freestyle in 2015. Despite failing to advance to the finals of the 500 free and placing 16th in the 200 individual medley, Thier believes he can be a bigger factor this time around.
“He has the potential to make something special happen,” Thier said.
According to Thier, Lastauskas’ steady improvements have been due to his commitment to the sport.
“He’s probably one of the hardest workers the program has ever seen,” Thier said. ”I think his willingness to push himself where other people just won’t go has been part of his success this year.”
Lastauskas has big goals for the District 2 Championships and hopes to continue the momentum throughout the rest of the postseason.
“I definitely want to get the district records in the 200 individual medley and 500 freestyle,” he said. “At states, I want to place in the top five in the 500 freestyle. I also think I can make the finals of the 200 individual medley and place in the top eight.”
Nico, the son of Kristin and Jeffrey Lastauskas, plans to continue his swimming career in college and is considering majoring in biology.