Substantial strides

Photo by Zack EldridgeLa Porte swimmer Lucas Banic has already earned numerous personal bests this season and has made great progress in the last 20 months in the pool.

La PORTE — In less than two years, Lucas Banic has undergone a total transformation.

After figuratively starting at the bottom of the pool, the steadfast La Porte sophomore has emphatically improved.

Banic has swam about 20 months for coach Brahim Hakim and it’s paid dividends. He competed in the La Porte Turbos Swim Club in the offseason under Hakim, and now swims for him as the lone returning swimmer for the Slicers after Hakim became the boys head coach job in early fall.

“When I first had him as a coach, it was a drastic change because his coaching style was a lot different,” Banic said. “He pushes you a lot harder in general. It was a tough change for me. At first, I was throwing up a lot. I just came off a back injury and I wasn’t in shape and I was being pushed as hard as that. I wasn’t doing good.”

Banic stayed the course, however, and continued to plug away. That has carried him to where he’s flourishing, having achieved personal bests at almost every meet so far this season.

“I just kept showing up and working hard and I eventually got back into shape,” Banic said. “And just started making small progress, and then, big progress this year obviously.”

His coach vividly recalls Banic’s early struggles in the sport, but also highlighted his perseverance and unwavering commitment.

“From that first day in practice until now, you wouldn’t recognize him in the water,” Hakim said. “If you saw a video of him swimming 20 months ago and saw a clip of him swimming now, you would say, ‘That’s not the same person, or there’s no way that’s the same person.’ I’m not going to take credit for that. I’m going to give that credit to his dedication.”

That persistence has led Banic to the prep circuit.

“I’ve been working hard,” Banic said. “I’ve been showing up to every practice and working my hardest. Just doing my best in the meets. I’m very proud with myself with how far I’ve come. And how far the team’s come, of course.”

Banic added what’s truly made his steady improvement possible is teammates’ support, plus the coaches’ guidance and his self motivation.

“We push each other and the coaches push us,” he said.

Banic’s primary events are the 100-yard butterfly, where he’s dropped roughly 20 seconds already from 1:27 to 1:07, the 200 individual medley and the 100 backstroke. Last year, he swam a lot of breaststroke. In addition to the 100 fly, he competes in the 200 IM, where he’s also dropped significant time.

Banic believes enhanced technique has permitted him to drop so much time in his 100 fly.

“I didn’t have good form on that stroke last year,” he said. “And I improved that and I instantly dropped like 10 seconds. And getting a stronger core and stronger shoulders made me a lot faster, too, just gaining muscle.”

Besides his revised fly stroke, Hakim loves his demeanor and thinks it can rub off on his teammates.

“More than a swimmer, he’s just got the best attitude on the team, the best disposition,” Hakim said. “Every set we do in the weight room, every set we do in the pool, he puts in 100 percent effort every set. He’s red, blue, purple, you see that effort in him. And it’s showing in his time drops.”

Out of the pool, Banic is a reliable student as well. An A-B student, he takes Honors Algebra 2 and a dual credit course, Business Law and Ethics, and plans to enroll in a few Advanced Placement classes next year.

“It’s just as important, if not more, than swimming because obviously that’s going to make your future more than swimming is,” he said of his academics. “You can only swim for so long, but learning’s going to make a difference in your life.”

Banic, who also involved in the Business Professionals of America Club, is poised to continue to ascend in the pool.

“We’ll do the best we can, stay together as a team and push each other,” he said. “I hope I can make the podium (at the Duneland Athletic Conference meet and the sectional) this year, if not next year. Hopefully at least my senior year I can make top eight.”

While his coach is also eager to see what Banic can accomplish the rest of this season, he’s primed for the following two campaigns as well.

“Luke is one of those great kids that you just wish you had 100 of him,” Hakim said. “That work ethic, that dedication, never complaining. In a 16-year-old, that’s rare. As a sophomore, we started at a certain level and we set goals. By next year, his junior year, and his senior year, he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with.”

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