Robert Finke went through a rigorous summer swimming schedule with meets across the country. The Countryside High junior competed in the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials in Nebraska and the Junior Pan Pacific Championships in Hawaii.
Finke did so well that he was selected for the FINA Swimming World Cup, an international series of short-course meets that is open to swimmers from FINA member countries. The meet takes place in Japan the first week of November.
That presented a problem. Finke already missed six days of school swimming in the Pan Pacific Championships and would have to miss another seven if he traveled to Japan.
Finke declined to compete in the World Cup, opting to swim in postseason meets for Countryside and compete for individual state titles.
"Going on that trip to Japan would have been nice, but I'm happy to stay here and compete for state titles in my events, something I wasn't able to do last year," Finke said.
Last year, Finke was one of 68 swimmers picked for the USA Swimming National Select Camp, held Oct. 29-Nov. 1 at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
The date of that camp coincided with the district meet, which swimmers have to participate in to qualify for regionals in individual events. Finke was not eligible for a state title in the 500-yard freestyle, his signature event. Instead, he competed in relays and helped the Cougars place second in both the 200 medley (1:35.11) and the 400 free (3:08.76) at last year's Class 4A meet.
Finke already is well-positioned to win his first state title in the 500 free. At the Pinellas County Athletic Conference meet, Finke won the 500 free in four minutes, 21.93 seconds, shattering the meet record by nearly eight seconds. Finke's time from the PCAC meet is 11 seconds faster than the top returning state place-winner in 4A.
But Finke's goal is not just to win. He wants to break the state record of 4:17.29 set by former Sarasota Riverview standout Nicholas Caldwell in 2010.
"I think I can lower my time enough to get the record," Finke said. "I'm close to where I need to be to get there."
Swimming has always been a family affair. Finke's mother, Jeanne, swam for Ball State in the late 1970s.
Finke's father, Joe, was not a swimmer, but became immersed in the sport and is now with St. Petersburg Aquatics, the club program his children swim for in the offseason.
Finke's older sisters, Autumn (Florida) and Summer (FSU), are Countryside graduates who now compete collegiately. All three competed in the Olympic Trials this past summer.
"That was a great experience to be at the trials with the whole family," Finke said. "It was my first time competing, and it was a great learning experience for me."
This month is another whirlwind of meets for Finke, starting Saturday with the district meet. After the postseason ends, Finke will travel to Indianapolis Nov. 12-13 to compete with the USA Junior National Team in a dual meet against the top collegiate swimmers in the Big 10.
So will there be any break from swimming once those rush of meets end?
"Not really," Finke said. "I'm pretty much always swimming."