The record board that hung on the west wall of Loyola’s O’Shaughnessy pool loomed large above Luke Maurer whenever he stepped onto the deck.
One name stood out the most.
His father, Erik Maurer (Class of 1989), owned the program’s best times in both the 100-yard freestyle and 200-yard freestyle. Erik graduated with four individual state championships, two in the 100 free and two in the 200 free.
“It’s always a concern of mine when kids have parents or a brother or sister who did something special before them,” Loyola head coach Mike Hengelmann said. “But Luke has handled it all in stride. If he feels any pressure, he doesn’t show it. He’s a happy-go-lucky kid.”
According to Luke, his dad’s accomplishments motivated him more than they burdened him.
“I wanted to beat them,” he said. “I wanted to be the one up there.”
Luke earned his place in Loyola lore at this season’s state meet at New Trier.
A junior, he won state titles in both the 100 free and 200 free, setting program-record times in each event. Luke is one of three Loyola boys swimmers with two or more individual state championships. Erik has four, and Andrew Jovanovic (Class of 2013) owns three.
Erik said he and Lea — Erik’s wife and Luke’s mother — did their best to make the sport enjoyable for their oldest son. Both Erik and Lea were standout swimmers at Stanford University, where they each captured individual NCAA championships. Lea won gold and bronze medals at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain.
“I don’t think I ever got the sense he felt pressure because of what I did,” Erik said. “I think he viewed what I did as a goal to try and surpass.”
To avoid the inevitable comparisons with his career at Loyola, Erik turned down requests for interviews last year after Luke established himself as one of the state’s top swimmers by taking third in the 100 free and fourth in the 200 free.
Simply put, Erik wanted Luke to stand on his own.
“Our athletic stories are written,” Erik said of he and Lea’s. “Luke is still writing his, and we are excited to see how it turns out.”
In his third appearance at the state meet as an individual, Luke made Loyola history in the preliminaries. His times in the 200 free (1:36.45) and 100 free (44.68) both were program records.
The 6-foot-7 Luke followed up those swims by winning state titles in each event. Remarkably, he broke his own record in the 100 free in the finals with a time of 44.33 to beat defending state champion and Stevenson senior Topher Stensby.
“I went into the state meet hoping to win both events and beat my dad’s records,” Luke said. “Those definitely were big goals, and I knew they would be hard to get. But I love racing and the competition. I was excited for the opportunity.”
On the eve of the finals, Luke and his parents barely spoke about the state meet. But Luke said he was reminded of their advice, and it eased his mind before he went to sleep.
“Just have fun,” he said.
Added Erik: “A core part of Luke doing well is him having fun. If he does that, he’s usually succeeding.”
Nevertheless, Luke nerves showed up when he stepped onto the block for his first event, the 200 free. Instead of pushing them away, he said he embraced his emotions.
“I think it’s good to feel a little like that, but there’s a fine line,” Luke said. “You have to find the sweet spot.”
According to Hengelmann, Luke likes to be challenged and welcomes the chance to compete against the best. He’s also tough, said Hengelmann, who recalled when Luke cut his foot moments before the 200 free at sectionals and still managed to qualify for the state meet.
“He’s a gamer,” Hengelmann said. “He lives for the big moment and rises to the occasion.”
A Wilmette resident and product of St. Francis Xavier, Luke disclosed a friendly rivalry exists between himself and his dad. But Erik was first in line to congratulate his son.
“He was really happy with the way I swam and with me beating him,” Luke said.
If circumstances were different, Luke might have been a basketball player at Loyola. He said his parents never insisted he pursue swimming. But he suffered a knee injury prior to high school that steered him into the pool instead of onto the basketball court.
Now, he’s committed to cementing his legacy as one of school’s best swimmers. Not surprisingly, Luke has no regrets how his athletic career has unfolded.
“I won a couple of state titles and broke my dad’s records, but I want to back it up by winning again next year,” he said.
Luke looks forward to the opening of Loyola’s John D. Norcross Aquatic Center and seeing the updated record board.
“We had a lot of good memories in the old pool, but the new one is supposed to be a fantastic facility,” he said. “It will also be fun to see my name up on the wall.”