Since Pompano Beach Piranhas head swim coach Jesse Vassallo arrived three years ago, the USA Swim program has shown steady progress in major swim meets.
Vassallo, who brought 25 athletes to the recent 24th annual Speedo Winter Championships at Plantation Aquatic Complex, was pleased as his program finally reached the Top 10.
“We wanted to get in the top 10 this year,” said Vassallo, of the meet that hosted a record 1,382 competitors representing 75 teams from around the country, as well as internationally and from South Florida. “The kids all swam and we got about 70 percent of the kids into the finals.”
The Pompano Beach Piranhas placed 10th overall in the combined standings with 522.20 points. It was eighth in the men’s team standings with 303.50 points and 12th in the women’s standings with 219 points.
This is the fourth year that Pompano Beach has been a USA swim program, and it was Vassallo’s third year heading the program.
“We went from 33rd to 19th to 13th before this year,” Vassallo said. “We didn’t bring any bonuses. These are guys who made their cuts. I am excited because it has taken time.”
Vassallo said development of the program has been noticeable.
“This is a lot more competitive than the rec swimming they had before I got there,” Vassallo said. “This is more serious swimming than where they were with recreational. You would come and go as you please and, to be here, you are pretty much swimming every day. Here, it is a big commitment. It is a pretty tough level. I have a very solid core group of swimmers.”
Oakland Park’s Raphael Santos, 12, a Sunrise Middle 6th grader, trains twice a day for four hours.
“It’s pretty fun,” Santos said. “I am good at it and my friends are here. This is pretty important because you get to show how good you are. I want to go pretty far, maybe the Olympics. It is going to take hard training … I don’t get nervous because I know I am going to score (in my event).”
The South Florida Aquatic Club (SOFLO) won its second consecutive Winter Championships with a combined total of 2,097 points to easily outdistance runner-up Azura Florida Aquatics (1,412 points) and the Pine Crest Swim Team (1,240 points). They were the only teams to top the 1,000-point mark.
Top finishers for the Pompano Beach Piranhas included: No. 5 — Victoria Miyamoto (14-year-old women); No. 8 — Sloan Sizemore (14-yearold women); No. 8 — Fatimah Westbrook (15-16 year-old women); No. 15 — Jake Schulte (10-Under men); No. 13 — Emilio Barrantes (11-year-old men); No. 13 — Raphael Santos (12-yearold men); No. 7 — Mattheus Santos (13-year-old men); No. 5 — (tie) Tyler Zuyus (14-year-old men) and No. 21 — Victor Vassallo (17 & Over men)