Swimmers from the Pompano Beach Piranhas USA swim program have enjoyed success in recent months and the recent Florida Gold Coast Junior Olympics swim meet at the Coral Springs Aquatic Complex was no exception.
Several Piranhas turned in strong efforts in the high point awards for their respective divisions led by Tyler Zuyus, who took fourth in the 13-14 Boys Division, while Jake Schulte was 10th in the 10-Under Boys. Pompano’s Boys were fifth in the Boys 13-14 team race, while the 10-Under Boys were ninth overall.
Two swimmers are happy with the progress of the program, which is in its fourth year as a USA swim program, and Piranhas head swim coach Jesse Vassallo is entering his fourth year heading the program.
Pompano Beach’s Shane Schulte, 14, is one of five members of his family that swim. He has two brothers (Kelly, 16, and Jake, 10) and two sisters (Julia, 18, and Summer, 12).
“It is very competitive between us,” Shane Schulte said. “We always try and do the best in every sport. It is really cool because all five of us have spent all of our lives competing. My brothers and me play rugby for the Pompano Storm and we are always fighting and aspiring to be the best out there. We have been playing rugby for two years.”
“In the Junior Olympics (JOs), I was hoping to do the best I could and go up a few spots from where I was ranked in the beginning,” he added. “I went up in my rankings and dropped times in all seven of my events. I was pretty psyched about it.”
Schulte, an eighth-grader at Pompano Beach Middle School, said the local program is starting to make waves in the swimming community.
“Over the past couple of years, we have grown drastically,” he said. “We started off going to JOs and we would be one of the last teams. In the winter champs, we finished Top 10 and that was a pretty good feat for us. We are starting to get a lot stronger and form one of those big teams and big names that everyone wants to be on.
Schulte said the best part of swimming is that it is a social event.
“You are not just competing against your friends,” he said. “The practices are fun. It is not just all about hard work. You can enjoy it and that’s what makes it better than most other sports. It is not always about the placement. When you accomplish something that you have never done before like dropping a time or reaching a certain goal, you are still very satisfied in the end. I want to go very far in swimming.”
Teammate Alicja Zielinski, 14, of Oakland Park, came very close to dropping all of her times in the meet. The Northeast High School freshman has been swimming for Pompano for the past four years.
“I like how it is like an individual sport and it focuses on yourselves and your team,” Zielinski said. “To be honest, it is better than any other sport because it is the best workout for your body. You get this rush of adrenaline and you speed your way through. I am in love with competing.”
She has seen improvement and confidence as she has progressed through the past Junior Olympic competitions.
“It is a tough sport,” said Zielinski, who hopes to swim in college. “It really is. It is tougher mentally than physically. You have to motivate yourself to achieve your goal. When you get up on the block and you race, it is like you are in a different world. It is about you and how you want to achieve your goals. That is more important to me than winning medals.”