Mattheus Santos has been swimming since he was 4 years old and loves everything about it. It could be because he is very good at it as well.
The 12-year-old Santos recently finished 7th in the Boys 11-12 Division for high point with 48 points in the Florida Gold Coast 14 and Under Junior Olympics at the Michael Lohberg Pool of Champions in Coral Springs.
His performance helped his Pompano Beach Piranhas Swim Team take 13th overall with a combined total of 216 points. The boys finished 11th with 101 points, while the girls took 10th overall with 115 points.
“It’s fun racing and it depends how much effort you put into it,” said Santos, a Sunrise Middle School 7th grader. “My goal coming into the meet was to go as fast as I could and I hoped to make finals.”
Mission accomplished. Santos made finals in six events and finished in the top four in most of them.
“I want to go as far as swimming will take me … college and maybe the Olympics,” Santos said. “I have to put in a lot of effort in training and lots of pain.”
Santos estimated he would do 8,000 to 10,000 yards of swimming during a normal week of practice. It certainly paid off.
“I’m really happy with how I did in the meet,” Santos said. “On a scale from 1-10, I’d have to say a 9.”
Another Piranhas swim team member, Victoria Miyamoto, had a solid meet, as she also placed in the top five in the high points in her division. Miyamoto, 14, took fifth in the Girls 13-14 Division with 49 points.
South Florida Aquatic Club (SOFLO) won its fourth consecutive combined team championship. SOFLO dominated the three-day meet at the Michael Lohberg Pool of Champions in Coral Springs with 1,165.50 points as the only team to break the 1,000- point barrier. Their closest rival was Metro Aquatics (617.50 points).
Pine Crest (608.50) was third, while Azura Florida Aquatic (584.50) and Coral Springs Swim Club (324) rounded out the top 10 for Broward programs in the combined race with a fourth and eighth place finish, respectively. The 14 and Under Junior Olympics followed up another event that the local swim team hosted weeks earlier. The Pompano Piranhas held its annual Friendship Invitational, which attracted more than 300 swimmers from 10 swim clubs in the tri-county area.
Pompano Piranhas head coach Jesse Vassallo, a former Olympian and multi-world record holder in the sport, said the meet serves as a showcase for swimming skills and the cultural diversity of the swimmers.
“Here in South Florida,” Vassallo noted, “we have swimmers from every culture imaginable, and everyone gets along no matter where they’re from. This sport helps you make friends from everywhere.”
“We want to see the event grow to around 700 swimmers and become a real international swim meet,” Vassallo said. “This is a threeday event, and it takes a whole team to pull this off.”
Miyamoto and Santos were also high point winners in that meet. Miyamoto won the Girls 13-14 Division with 133 points, while Santos topped the Boys 11-12 Division with 132 points.
Metro Aquatic Club of Miami took top honors in the combined team scoring with 5,166 points, while the Piranhas were runner-up with 2,613.50. Swim Fort Lauderdale (1,381.50) was third, while St. Andrew’s Swim Club (1,077.50) and the Miami Beach Seahawks (543.- 50) finished fourth and fifth, respectively.