TAMPA — It’s these frenetic 17-hour days, when nary a minute exists to stop and smell the chlorine, that John Nolte’s life seems to replicate his specialty race.
From the moment he rises in his Riverview home (normally around 5:30 a.m.) until he dusts off his last homework assignment (normally around midnight), the Robinson senior madly propels his 175-pound body from one point to another, with little turnaround time.
It’s true whether he’s darting from home to school to practice to “crossfit” training, or simply motoring from one end of the Bobby Hicks
Pool to the other. Fact is, Nolte never stops sprinting.
“It’s tough being John,” Knights coach George DiFederico said.
It’s tougher being in an opposing lane. If his senior year mirrors the previous three, Nolte will finish his prep career undefeated in any individual event in dual-match competition. At one time or another, he has swum them all.
“He just loves to race,” said Jason Bowes, his club team coach. “He’s a gamer.”
In the process, this strapping 6-foot military brat, who arrived from Alaska four years ago, has helped transform Knights swimming from a speck to a spot on the local swim map.
“However you break it down, he’s been the top sprinter in the county for three years, since he walked on campus,” said DiFederico, who leads the Knights into Saturday’s city relays at Bobby Hicks Pool.
“He’s supposed to win, and the thing is, he expects to win. He doesn’t want to let himself down, and that’s not easy for three years.”
Later this fall, Nolte will seek a second state medal in the 50-yard freestyle (his signature race), and his first in the 100 free after missing out by one place each of the past two years. Should he reach his goal, he’ll likely exhale first. Reflection on the journey is sure to follow.
He has taken it in fifth gear all the way.
Because 5:30 is considered sleeping in, Nolte ingests a nutritional shake and piece of fruit in his black Hyundai Sonata while en route to Robinson, where he takes a load of International Baccalaureate courses (and maintains a 4.3 weighted GPA).
“I barely make it on time here every day, because I’m too stubborn to leave any earlier,” he said.
After school, he walks across the street to Bobby Hicks Pool, logging a 45- to 90-minute workout with the Knights. He took to swimming while living in Alaska, embracing a sport — unlike Little League — where only the winners earned ribbons and there were distinct goals (i.e. time standards) to pursue.
Three days a week, he speeds from Hicks to Elite Strength and Conditioning, a downtown gym where he engages in an excruciating cocktail of weightlifting, sled pushes, rope drills and the like.
An ensuing practice with his club team, Tampa Bay Aquatics, winds down around 7:30. Not once during the day will he pour caffeine in his body.
“I hate soda,” he said.
Dedication, however, is only part of the equation. Bowes said Nolte is one of the most athletic males to ever enlist in his program. Even Knights football coach Mike DePue is convinced Nolte could have segued from freestyle to free safety had he been so inclined.
“When we do a new dry-land exercise, John always ends up demonstrating because he’s the most prolific at being able to demonstrate stuff perfectly,” Bowes said.
“He has a great gift of understanding his body. He’ll go on the diving boards and screw around and do doubles and reverses. He could probably medal at states in diving if he wanted to, and I’m not just saying that. He definitely could.”
A pair of state sprint medals is equally conceivable.
Nolte finished sixth in the 50 free at last year’s 2A state meet, and missed the finals of the 100 by four-tenths of a second. His performance in the consolations (47.07 seconds) would’ve been good enough for fifth place in the championship finals.
“We know there are about three guys coming back that beat him from last year,” DiFederico said, “but we’re talking tenths of seconds.”
Such is what pushes Nolte to maintain his breakneck, breakfast-on-the-go pace. There are times to be attained, medals to be earned.
And not a tenth of a second to spare.
39th annual City of Tampa Relay Meet
Where: Bobby Hicks Pool (across the street from Robinson High)
When: Saturday, 9 a.m.
Need to know: The event will feature 14 total relays, including five girls and five boys relays. The four mixed relays must include two boys and two girls on each team. A total of 25 teams (public and private schools) have entered, meet organizer Jon Mackey said
Joey Knight can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org