Mainland Regional High School’s Destin Lasco continued to amaze the New Jersey swimming world this winter.
Lasco stood out even more this season for the Mustangs, who had lost several talented swimmers from last year’s team to graduation.
The junior swam a variety of events and continued to break records, some with big drops in time. Mainland wasn’t unbeatable in the team meets, but Lasco led the way as the Mustangs (12-2) regrouped from two losses to win their fourth consecutive state Public B title.
Lasco is The Press Boys Swimmer of the Year for the third year in a row.
“It’s an honor to be the Swimmer of the Year, said Lasco, a 17-year-old Linwood resident. “There’s a lot of great competition. It’s always a new feeling. This year, it was all about the team. Even though we lost to Egg Harbor Township (96-74) and St. Augustine Prep (89-81) early in the season, we improved and were still hungry. We won South Jersey and knew it was possible to win state. We pulled it out at the end. It was a special day.”
Lasco is one of the country’s top high school swimmers and a standout in U.S. Swimming.
The two-day state individual swimming championships, typically called the Meet of Champions, was again Lasco’s personal showcase as he broke meet records both days in the 100- and 200-yard freestyle races. He also led the Mustangs to second-place finishes in the 200 and 400 freestyle relays.
Lasco won the 200 freestyle final in 1 minute, 35.17 seconds, having set the meet mark of 1:36.36 in the prelims the previous day. The former mark was 1:37.61 set by Zack Molloy of Toms River North in 2014.
Things were a little tougher for Lasco in the 100 freestyle. He broke Molloy’s 2014 meet mark of 44.59 in the preliminaries in 44.28. However, Jack Alexy of Delbarton swam a 44.27 in a different heat to take the record.
But Lasco left no doubt in the final as he won by 1.20 seconds in 43.44 to break the record again.
Lasco committed in January to swim in two years for the University of California-Berkeley.
Following the losses to St. Augustine and EHT, Mainland won its last two regular-season meets and then four straight postseason meets to win the state title. The Mustangs beat Moorestown 98-72 in a South Jersey semifinal and topped an improved Ocean City 98-72 to win the sectional title. In the state semifinal, Mainland dominated Manasquan 119-51. The Mustangs then beat Scotch Plains-Fanwood 98-72 for the state title.
“Destin was phenomenal from the get-go,” coach Brian Booth said. “He really wanted the state (team) title for everyone (else on the team), and he wanted it more for the young guys so they could have a chance to experience it. We had several other great swimmers in years past, so this year more than other years we moved him around to other events in order to help the team. It was a big thing to have an obviously great swimmer to do that.”
In the loss to EHT on Jan. 15, Lasco broke the existing National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association public school 200-meter freestyle record in 1 minute, 51.15 seconds. The old mark was 1:51.58. But it was later discovered that Brendan Burns of Conestoga High School in Berwyn, Pennsylvania, swam a 1:48.47, also on Jan. 15, and that became the new mark.
“Brendan is a great kid and a great swimmer,” Lasco said. “When your records are broken, it keeps you on your feet, humble and hard working.”
Team of the Year
In one crucial week in January, St. Augustine Prep beat rivals Egg Harbor Township and Mainland (both times by scores of 89-81) to win the Cape-Atlantic League American Conference for the first time since 2015. St. Augustine (9-1), ranked No. 2 in The Press Elite 11, is the Team of the Year. The Hermits’ only loss was to powerful Christian Brothers Academy 106-64 in the state Non-Public A final.
“The team swam really well,” Stinson said. “They worked hard and stepped up when they needed to. I didn’t think we would win the conference, but the guys put in the work. The meets against Egg Harbor Township, Mainland and Ocean City were all close. We swam our best against the best teams to pull out the wins.”
Coach of the Year
Booth is the choice after guiding Mainland’s impressive run to the state championship.
“It’s a reflection more on the kids than me,” Booth said. “They put in the work to make the team successful. I’m a byproduct of that. We really sat down and talked after the two losses. We talked about our expectations. We take it in stages — the conference, South Jersey and states. It’s nice to have parity back in our conference. The losses made us stronger, and we felt we could be successful (in the state tournament). We felt like we could do it.”