By Sharon Robb
PEMBROKE PINES, December 1, 2021–Austin Nelson is beginning to see his hard work and dedication in swimming pay off.

The Cutler Bay High School sophomore who trains with longtime coach Lou Manganiello at South Florida Aquatic Club’s Miami training site is coming off an outstanding high school season.

Nelson, 16, dropped his 500-yard freestyle time from 4:56.43 at districts to 4:45.05 at regions to qualify for the FHSAA Class 1A State Meet for the first time in an individual event. His previous best was 4:54.95. He finalled in the 500 at the state meet finishing eighth in 4:43.19.

Nelson also improved his 100-yard backstroke from 57.55 at districts to 54.56 at regions, another state qualifying time. His previous best was 56.88. He also qualified on two relays.

As a freshman, he made his state meet debut as a relay member on the 200-yard medley and 400-yard freestyle relays.

Nelson has been swimming since August 2012. One of his parents’ friends told them about swimming and his mom suggested he give it a try.

“I did and now I’m here,” Nelson said.

Nelson grew up at the Miami pool. He credits Manganiello with his successful rise in swimming.

“Coach Lou has been huge in my swimming,” Nelson said. “He has helped me through a lot of it. He has been there through everything and been a big aspect of my swimming career.”

Nelson has been happy with his swimming at the bigger meets.

“My most accomplished meet would be states,” Nelson said. “My biggest club meet was summer sectionals [at age 15]. I did pretty good there. I swam the 400 free and 200 back and dropped times in both.”

Currently Nelson said he is working towards his Futures cuts in the 100 and 200 backstroke events and 500 freestyle.

“I would like to get at least one Futures cut before the end of the year,” said Nelson, who will go after it at the Dec. 9-12 31st annual Speedo Winter Championships. “After that I would like to keep shaving down times and eventually get to Winter Juniors, Summer Juniors and other big meets.”

Nelson loves to compete when it comes to meets.

“I like the racing aspect, when you’re up on the block and you are getting ready for the racing part,” he said. “I am competitive.

“Swimming is a big part of my life. There’s nine practices a week and that takes up a lot of time. It’s usually two hours and that takes up most of my afternoon. Sometime it’s early in the morning. There’s very minimal room to do out-of-practice activities.

“For me it’s more swimming and school now. In the long run I found that I can get more opportunities with swimming and school than let’s say going out to the movies or going to a party.”

The sport has also helped Nelson budget his time wisely.

“It’s helped me with my time management and discipline. I have more respect for adults due to the high level of respect I have for Coach Lou.

“Coach Lou has been there since Day One. He is still going to be a big aspect for the next two years I will be swimming. He writes the practices that are going to help me get these cuts I want to be getting.”

Nelson is already looking forward to swimming in college. His top three choices are Florida, Texas and Georgia.

“I think for a swimmer to be successful the mental aspect is important,” Nelson said. “You have be mentally fit and determined. It’s also the in-practice effort. You have to show effort in practice and you have to try to come to practice with as positive an attitude as you can get when you see the practice. I train like I compete.”

Nelson said the turning point in his career came when the pandemic first started in March 2020 and swimmers had to quarantine and could not swim in club pools.

“I was thinking a lot of people would be dropping out of the sport,” Nelson said. “I thought it was my time to improve and drop time. I started working hard when we got back into the pool. My turning point would have been the summer of my freshman year.”

Nelson has been fortunate to train with some talented swimmers at workouts. The elite group brings out the best in each other.

“I have a lot of fast teammates down here in Miami,” Nelson said. “They have helped push me through the hard practices, the 500 race-pace practices, those kind of practices.

“In workout I think of my goals,” he said. “Like today in practice I was trying to focus on my Futures cut, just thinking of my goals and where I want to be and where this could take me eventually.”

Each TYR Swimmer of the Month receives a free TYR backpack.

SOFLO sponsor TYR is a USA manufacturer of recreational and competitive swimwear, caps, goggles, triathlon gear and accessories and one of the nation’s top companies.

TYR, created by athletes, is named for the Norse god of warriors in Germanic mythology. Among its male-sponsored athletes are 2020 Olympians Michael Andrew, Tom Shields, Nic Fink, Townley Haas and Jordan Wilimovsky and other elite swimmers Matt Grevers, Maxime Rooney, Jacob Pebley and Ryan Lochte.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

Aruba’s Patrick Groters Wins Second Gold Medal, Breaks Second Junior Pan American Games Record Twice

By Sharon Robb
CALI, Colombia, November 30, 2021–Patrick Groters of Aruba won his second gold medal and broke his second meet record at the Junior Pan American Games Tuesday at Hernando Botero O’Byrne Swimming Pool.

On the fifth and final night of the inaugural competition, Groters, 22, won the 200-meter individual medley with an exciting finish in 2:02.09, holding off Guatemala’s Erick Gordillo in 2:02.47.

Groters broke his second Junior Pan American Games record in morning prelims in 2:03.93 and came back to break it again in finals in 2:02.09.

The former NSU University School and Pine Crest Swim Club swimmer, now at University of South Carolina, finished with two gold medals, two meet records, two national records, one silver medal and three World Championship qualifying times.

Nicole Frank, 17, of Uruguay and Azura Florida Aquatics, won her first gold medal of the meet in the 200-meter individual medley. She won in a best time 2:17.46, a drop of 0.78. She was second fastest in morning prelims in 2:21.61.

Brazil swept the men’s and women’s team titles.

Cali, the capital of Valle del Cauca, hosted the first-ever edition of the Junior Pan American Games.

It was a key event in the lead-up to the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games and Paris 2024 Olympics, allowing up-and-coming athletes a new level of competition they didn’t have in past years.

Approximately 3,000 volunteers, 1,400 technical officials and 1,142 other officials participated along with 4,806 athletes from 41 countries and territories affiliated with Panam Sports in 39 sports. The meet was for ages up to 22.

Neither the U.S. or Canada, the region’s most successful countries, sent swim teams to the event although they competed in other sports. Brazil (25), Colombia (25), and Mexico (26) had the largest delegations of swimmers.

The Games were initially scheduled to begin on June 5 but were postponed to September 9 to 19. It was further delayed because of COVID-19 before moving to late November and early December.

1500-meter freestyle: 1. Karen Durango Restrepo, Colombia 17:18.34, 2. Maite Gonzalez Rodriguez, Cuba 17:35.28, 3. Michelle Jativa, Ecuador 17:45.32.

200-meter individual medley: 1. Nicole Frank, Uruguay 2:17.46, 2. Maria Selene Alborzen, Argentina 2:18.99, 3. Fernando De Groeij, Brazil 2:19.32.

1500-meter freestyle: 1. Gerald Hernandez Huerta, Nicaragua 16:44.64, 2. Juan Jose Bolanos, Costa Rica 16:50.44, 3. Miguel Siwady, Honduras 16:52.42.

200-meter individual medley: 1. Patrick Groters, Aruba 2:02.09, 2. Erick Gordillo, Guatemala 2:02.47, 3. Matheo Mateos, Paraguay 2:04.53.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com