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When he first started, Max Zum Tobel was not a big fan of swimming.
The Boca Raton High School senior and member of the Saint Andrew’s Aquatics swim team added swimming to his competitive sports list after getting his start in water polo in middle school.
“I thought it really (stunk),” Zum Tobel said. “I kept doing it, even though I didn’t like it. But now, I really like it. I think the mindset of wanting to get better really helped.
“In my freshman year, I did not make states,” he said. “I was not very good at all. I made states my sophomore year and I was a part of a bigger scene. I wanted to win states my junior year, but that got canceled because of COVID. So it has to be this year. I want to show that I should have been there last year. I want to break some team records and win state this year.”
Zum Tobel is off to a good start this summer as he helped Saint Andrew’s Aquatics win its first combined Florida Gold Coast Senior Championships team title at Coral Springs Aquatic Complex.
Zum Tobel, a U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier, swam the anchor leg of the Florida Gold Coast record-breaking 200-meter freestyle relay in 1:32.48, which narrowly missed the national age group record by .05. The previous FGC record was 1:32.87 set by Westminster Academy in 2013.
“Winning senior champs was great because we had everybody there and we wanted to win it,” said Zum Tobel, 17, who was 14th with 82 points. “We were all in the same heats, the same races, and raced each other like we always do at practice.”
Saint Andrew’s (1,446) edged defending seven-time champion South Florida Aquatic Club (1,295.50) in one of the closest competitions ever. The Jupiter Dragons was third with 1,064.50. They were the only teams to crack the 1,000-point barrier among a field of 35 teams.
St. Andrew’s Aquatics also won the boys’ team title with 1,143. SOFLO was second with 790 and Swim Fort Lauderdale was third with 675. Saint Andrew’s placed sixth in the women’s standings with 303 points. Jupiter won the girls’ title with 710.50 points.
Among the schools heavily recruiting Zum Tobel is North Carolina State University. He said has been guaranteed a spot on the team as soon as he swims two times — a 19.0 in the 50 free and 43.0 in the 100 free.
“I am pretty close,” Zum Tobel said. “I am 45.0 in the 100 free and I have gone 44.0 on the relays. I am 20.4 in the 50 and that was almost a year ago. I am pretty confident because that is the school I really want to go to.
“The Olympic Trials really made me realize how far I have come,” he said. “That’s like where all of the pros are. It showed me how really crazy people can get. I was the youngest one there and I was one of the slowest ones there and out here I am one of the fastest ones here. It was a really crazy experience. It was a lot of fun and motivated me to get better. Next (Olympic) Trials, maybe I can make it to the Olympics.”
Saint Andrew’s also received solid performances on the men’s side from Dylan Briscoe, 22, and Reese Branzell, 18, who were fourth and fifth with 138 and 129 points, respectively. Ryan Nordheim, 18, and Aitor Arrese-Igor, 16, placed 11th and 12th scoring 92 and 91 points.
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Ella Martinez, 17, was the top female finisher as she took 18th place with 74 points Katherine Nordheim, 16, was 24th for Saint Andrew’s with 61 points.
Martinez has been swimming for Saint Andrew’s Scots for two years and swimming for the club team for a little over two years. She is a senior at Saint Andrew’s and recently committed to Cornell University.
“We took a lot of good people to the meet, and basically I think it was just about the year we had in training that helped us do so well at that meet,” Martinez said. “Obviously last summer we were out of the pool because of COVID, but when we got back in the water, we were more fired up than ever. When it came to summer training, we really took advantage of the extra hours we could spend in the pool.”
Saint Andrew’s swimmers dedicated the win to longtime head coach Sid Cassidy, who underwent coronary angioplasty and stent surgery and was unable to be at the meet. His son Quinn, who swam at the University of Florida, and Ramon Walton, a University of Kentucky swimmer filled in. Both prepped at Saint Andrew’s.
“I think it came down to how good of a training group we had during the summer,” Quinn Cassidy said.” They all trained hard over the summer and they wanted to go to a meet together.
“Everybody wanted to go to the same meet and be on the same relays,” he said. “Going in the last day and seeing us on top of the leaderboard with a shot to come home with both the men and the combined championships was really fun.”