Cleveland State’s Dom Poletta wins two events just as the coronavirus threat cancels the subsequent two days in what turns out to be his last splash as a college swimmer.
Maybe it was only fair Dom Poletta got to sneak in two last championships before the coronavirus threat ended his college swim career.
Outside forces already had wiped out the college program he joined after making a splash at Green High School.
The Cleveland State senior — who transferred from Wright State after it dropped its swim program — won two events Thursday in the National Invitational Championship. One day later, the Horizon League announced it was indefinitely suspending competitions in all league-sponsored sports, due to the coronavirus, effective Friday.
"The whole situation kind of ties into my major, environmental studies," Poletta said. "Hearing that the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic put it in perspective. It's way more serious than I initially thought it would be."
Developing into a title-winning swimmer has taken Poletta on a bit of journey. He found out during his freshman year that Wright State was discontinuing its swim team. Fund-raising bought another year, and he put it to good use. In his last meet as a sophomore, which turned out to be the last one before Wright State sank the program permanently, he swam the 50-yard freestyle in 19.73 seconds.
It was the first time he broke 20 seconds.
"When I looked at the clock, it blew my mind," Poletta said.
Poletta had been part of Ohio high school history at the state meet in Canton in 2016. Going into the 50-yard freestyle finals, Cincinnati St. Xavier's Joe Hudepohl had been sitting on the state record for 25 years, at 20.01. In that race, Kalvin Koethke of Grove City pulled a 19.97 from straight out of the blue.
Poletta finished second in 20.52.
"To break 20 for the first time in my last meet as a Wright State Raider, and to hit 19.73 ... it was insane," Poletta said.
Poletta has spent his life in swimming pools, hitting the water when he was 2 and getting coached by his mother, Bev, from the beginning. His first high school, Coventry, didn't have a swim program. The family moved to Green when he was a freshman.
He did the year-long grind to be one of the best through high school and two seasons in college.
"I did think about stopping when Wright State ended the program," he said, "but I wanted to go faster. I wanted that little bit more."
He found that at Cleveland State, where he was became a standout in 2019 and 2020.
He was fired up for a big finish in the National Invitational Championship being hosted by his school, at Busbey Natatorium in Cleveland.
The meet was scheduled for Thursday through Saturday, with finals in two of Poletta's specialties, the 50 freestyle and 50 butterfly, set for Thursday night.
What a night for Poletta.
First he won the butterfly in a meet-record 21.14 seconds. Then he won the 50 free in 19.91. These were nice additions to the Horizon League championships he won in the events this season. They were his final wins once the league indefinitely suspended competitions in all league-sponsored sports.
Poletta spoke by phone Friday from his apartment near the natatorium. Cleveland State is on spring break and has added a week of spring break as it develops a strategy to conduct online classes.
"Coming to Cleveland State was quite an adjustment," Poletta said. "It's like when your family moves to a new school and you make all new friends again. But I ended up really liking it.
"I was disappointed the meet got shortened, but I was fortunate my best events were on the first day. I feel sorry for the kids who tapered and prepared for the meet and don't get to swim their events."
Reach Steve at 330-580-8347 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @sdoerschukREP