CANTON — Taylor Vargo stood, dazed, in a field of photographers as the finalists were summoned. Her name was called last, and she had the highest climb up the podium.
“And finishing in first place in the 100 breaststroke,” the voice boomed over the loudspeaker, “a freshman from Sandusky, with a time of 1:04.61 … Taylor Vargo.”
The freshman became Sandusky’s first female swim champion ever and the first Blue Streak at the summit of the podium in more than a half century.
“I just kind of pushed myself to the limit, to see where I could go,” she said.
Not where, but how quickly.
Taylor crouched on the block, the top returning finisher three lanes to her left. She sprang from the platform, drifting toward the rope to her right. She was the last of the eight swimmers to breach the surface after her first turn.
Sandusky coach Tommy Patterson wasn’t worried.
“I saw her split at the 50, and she was faster today than she was yesterday. The longer she goes, the better she gets,” he said.
“At the 50, I knew that it was over.”
Taylor completed her final turn, taking an elbow-length lead over her nearest competitor. She tapped the wall and looked up at the scoreboard.
She saw the results in 12-inch fluorescent numerals.
Taylor floated gently with her hand on the rope, staring at the board, smiling broadly.
“I actually didn’t expect to win,” she said. “I was just going to do my best. I knew I had to stay positive to do my best and try to win.”
Taylor also secured a 15th-place finish in 1:55.31 in the 200-yard freestyle, the first individual event of the day.
Her teammate, Gus Everson, earned two top-10 finishes at the meet.
“This year was way better than last year at state,” the Sandusky senior said. “It was a great way to head out of high school.”
He took second in the consolation heat of the 50 freestyle in 21.51 seconds, good for 10th place overall.
“It’s not exactly my best time, but it’s good,” Everson said. “I’ll take second in my heat.”
Everson capped his prep swimming career with a season-best 46.34 in the 100 freestyle, winning the consolation heat. He finished with the fifth-best time overall, including the championship heat, but earned ninth. The swimmers in the championship heat are guaranteed the top eight places.
“That was all I wanted,” he said. “This isn’t the fastest pool ever. I’m happy with the consolation heat.”
Everson made it to the state meet his junior year, when he earned a 16th-place finish in the 100 free (47.60). He missed the championship finals in the 50 free last season at that meet.
Patterson noted Everson didn’t make it out of the sectional meet when he was a freshman. Three years later, Everson earned two top-10 finishes.
“With Taylor and Gus, it just shows that we’re doing things the right way at Sandusky,” Patterson said. “They’re both straight-A students, and she’s a state champ. I don’t know how many kids around the state can say that, but (Taylor) can.”
Before the meet, Patterson said Sandusky’s sole team goal was to swim well, regardless of time and finish. He came to Canton with two swimmers each competing in two events. The Blue Streaks travel back to Sandusky with four top-15 finishes, including one gold medal.
“You see the people on TV, where good things happen to them,” Patterson said, trailing off in thought. “You don’t know what to do until it’s you.
“Everything went our way this week for everybody. That’s all you can ask for.”