By Gary Curreri
Pompano Beach Piranhas swim coach Jesse Vassallo is looking forward to the future of his program.
Vassallo, a member of the 1980 and 1984 U.S. Olympic Swimming Team, is a former World Record holder in the 200 and 400 meter individual medleys. He points to the success of Raphael Santos and Tyler Zuyus at the 26th annual Florida Gold Coast Speedo Winter Championships recently at Plantation Aquatic Complex.
Santos, 14, was third in the high point standings in the boys 13-14 division, while teammate Tyler Zuyus, 16, was second in the high point standings in the 15-16 boys division.
Santos won the Boys 13-14 100-free; the 100-IM; the 400-IM, the 200-free; and placed third in the 500-free; the 200-IM; the 1,650-free and fourth in the 50-free.
Zuyus captured the Boys 15-16 50-free; the 50-fly; 50-back; the 100-free; the 100-fly; and was second in the 100-back and third in the 500-free.
“Tyler and Raphael swam really well,” Vassallo said. “We brought 21 swimmers to the Winter Champs. Our team is a little bit smaller. We have some younger kids coming up.”
“We are doing well,” added Vassallo, who has nearly 180 swimmers in the program. “I am very proud of them. They sacrifice a lot and the commitment is huge. I would still like more (swimmers to come out).
Azura Florida Aquatics successfully defended its Winter Champs team titles in combined (1,390 points) and men’s (908.5 points), while Pine Crest defended its girls’ title (701.5 points). The Pompano Beach Piranhas placed 11th overall with 306 points and eighth in the men’s competition with 237 points.
Other top performers for Pompano included Lilia Blanco (6th in the Girls 10-Under 200-free; 5th in the 200-IM; 6th in the 100-free) and Marcus Sazbo (10th in the 10-Under 50-free; 8th in the 200-IM; 9th in the 50-fly; 9th in the 100-free).
Emilio Barrantes, 13, was ninth in the Boys 13-14 500-free; 7th in the 1,650-free; sixth in the 13-14 100-fly; ninth in the 200-free; Alex Marquez, 14, was 10th in the Boys 13-14 500-free; 10th in the 1,650-free; fifth in the 200-back; eighth in the 100-back; Jake Schulte, 12, was fifth in the Boys 11-12 500-free; sixth in the 200-IM; third in the 200-fly; third in the 400-IM; Shane Schulte, 15, was 10th in the Boys 15-16 100-breast; Summer Schulte, 13, was seventh in the Girls 13-14 50-free, 10th in the 50-back; 10th in the 100-back; Kelly Gest, 17, was 10th in the Women’s 50-breast; was sixth in the 200-free; and Alicja Zielinski, 16, was sixth in the Girls 15-16 50-breast.
Pompano Beach had several teams in the top 10 in the relays, including the Women’s 200-free relay (Summer Schulte, Adriana Rodriguez, Alicja Zielinski, Kelly Gest), which placed seventh; the same group made up the 200-medley relay that placed sixth; the Women’s 400-free relay (composed of Alicja Zielinski, Summer Schulte, Brooke Gest, Kelly Gest) was seventh; the Women’s 400-medley relay (composed of Summer Schulte, Mia Marquez, Alicja Zielinski, Kelly Gest) placed sixth.
The Boys 13-14 200-free relay (Emilio Barrantes, Paul Spada, Alex Marquez, Raphael Santos) placed fifth; and the same group made up the eighth place team in the 13-14 200-medley relay.
The men’s 200-medley relay composed of Tyler Zuyus, Alejandro Quinones, Kelly Schulte and Taylor Barton took ninth; the Men’s 400-free relay composed of Kelly Schulte, Shane Schulte, Taylor Barton and Tyler Zuyus took seventh; and the men’s 400-medley team (Tyler Zuyus, Raphael Santos, Kelly Schulte, Taylor Barton took ninth.
Meet Director Jimmy Parmenter, who is also the head coach of the host Plantation Swim team, said there were a little more than 1,100 competitors in the meet.
“This has probably been the best one yet,” Parmenter said. “We are trying to put on a good show for the kids. That’s what it is all about.”