When Danielle Margheret enrolled in Walsh Jesuit in 2009, being a state champion swimmer was not in her thought process.
Margheret’s favorite sport was clearly soccer, and she also enjoyed singing.
Walsh swim coach Wally Lutkus knew she was talented, and talked her into competing in the pool.
“I was on the edge kind of,” Margheret said. “I wasn’t sure if I wanted to. I was never sure until I talked to him. He was the one who convinced me to do it. I was definitely mostly a soccer player. I liked that it was a team sport. It was more of a creative sport for me and I like being creative. Art is one of my favorite subjects. Swimming is more of a stare at a black line [at the bottom of a pool] and push-yourself-pretty-hard type of sport.”
Four years later, Margheret, 17, is seeking her second state title in the 100-yard breast stroke and readying herself for a collegiate swim career at the University of Notre Dame.
Conditioning for soccer
“At first, he said swim to stay in shape for soccer,” Margheret said. “He told me I could stay in shape in the offseason.”
She swam three days a week initially. She played junior varsity soccer at Walsh as a center midfielder/goal keeper as a freshman and was a varsity goalkeeper as a sophomore.
Her sophomore year of swimming changed everything.
“After sophomore year and winning state [in the Division II 100 breast stroke], I decided to swim long course [during the summer] with Wally,” Margheret said. “That is when I placed second in a sectional that included college kids. I got my Olympic Trials qualifying cut at that point and I went on to Junior Nationals for the first time. I placed in the top eight there.
“I shocked myself at how well I did. My sophomore year, my fastest time until sectional was a 1:12. I went a 1:10 at sectional. Then at district the next week I convinced myself in the head that I was going to go 1:06 and I went 1:06. I dropped four seconds and then I dropped another four seconds at the state meet, which I didn’t expect whatsoever. I like being the underdog.”
Margheret, a 5-foot-10 Solon resident, posted a 1:02.74 to win the Division II state title in 2011. She placed second at the Division I state meet as a junior in the 100 breast stroke in a time of 1:02.93. She was also ninth at the Division II state meet as a freshman in the 100 breast stroke in a time of 1:06.75.
The 1:02.74 is a career-best time. She said her goal is to “definitely take that lower” in the coming weeks at the district meet at Cleveland State University’s Busbey Natatorium and the Division I state meet at Canton’s C.T. Branin Natatorium.
Coach sees possibility
Lutkus thinks that is possible after she won a Division I North sectional title in 1:07.07 Saturday at the University of Akron’s Ocasek Natatorium.
“She likes Cleveland and it is a fast pool, and she likes Canton,” Lutkus said. “I think it is a matter of getting rest. She has a week’s head start. The next two weeks are real important, as far as getting to bed, getting proper rest and continuing on the taper. We really haven’t tapered much yet.”
Margheret is also busy with school work and singing, taking part recently in church and show choirs and talent shows at Walsh. She has a 4.1 grade-point average.
Singing is a release
“I sang for my church choir when I was in first grade,” Margheret said. “When I was little and whenever I was having a problem, I would go outside and run around my front yard and sing to myself. I know, it is weird, but I don’t know. I actually saw a quote online and it said: ‘I blame Disney movies for making me feel like singing makes everything better.’ It is kind of true. Singing seems to make everything better. If I have a rough day, I will go and play the piano and sing. It kind of releases stress. Swim practice does too, but it can also be a little more stressful at times. It is a little more intense. Sports is usually where you can release yourself. My singing is where I release myself now.”
Margheret has sung the national anthem at the past two state swim meets.
Swimming at age 6
Margheret said she met Lutkus and his wife, Sue, when she was 4 and joined Lutkus’ swim team at Chagrin Valley Country Club at age 6.
“Sue taught me how to blow bubbles in the pool,” Margheret said. “She taught my younger brother [Johnathan] and I how to swim.”
Margheret also played volleyball, softball, basketball, gymnastics, dance, tennis and golf as a kid. Her parents, Dan and Janice, encouraged her to have fun, something that has continued to the present.
Work to be done
Lutkus enjoys coaching her, but realizes there is more work to be done.
“Working with her in the pool has been sometimes very enjoyable and sometimes frustrating because she never used to lose her stroke, but she had three strokes in there in 100 yards [Saturday],” Lutkus said. “The first one was thumbs out and all the others [were] garbage.”
Although he is quick to point out her faults, he is also quick to sing her praises.
“What was fun was taking her long course because she is much more of a leg kicker,” Lutkus said. “It has been fun at times and frustrating at times, but I always know that inside she has this thing called the heart of a champion and confidence. She has been there and it has been a lot of fun the past four years.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.