TAMPA — He is ranked No. 1 in the Plant High junior class and on Nov. 15 he could possibly set a state record in the 100-yard breaststroke.
Meet Tommy Nagle.
He’s the shorter one in the crowd, maybe 5-foot-9, but make no mistake, he’s the most prepared, the most determined and certainly the most focused.
Always, always, focused.
Nagle likes to say, “I’m good at time management,” keeping it humble, which is tough to pull off after you learn Nagle’s average daily schedule, give or take an hour here or there depending on the day:
• Two hours of swimming beginning at 5:30 a.m. (thousands of yards).
• Five AP classes at school.
• Another hour of swimming after school (at least three times a week).
• An hour of weight training and/or circuit training (box jumps, bounding, medicine-ball toss etc.)
• Two or more hours of homework (including studying for three on-line classes at Hillsborough Community College).
Grades? Nagle has never made anything less than an A on his report card in his life, which means for high school, including added points for AP classes, he owns a 6.72 GPA.
Times? Last year at the state meet he swam the 100 breaststroke in a personal-best 57.37 seconds, or 3.04 seconds off the state record.
Nagle, however, believes the record is in range because in last year’s final he dropped his personal best almost three seconds, so, using logic and math, if he drops another three seconds this year he’s right at the state-record time.
“This year I have also trained harder, and I believe smarter, improving my diet and getting better sleep,” Nagle said. “I feel more prepared.”
But why work so hard? Is it too much? Is he happy?
Nagle’s mother, Jennifer Nagle, an engineer and Stanford graduate, says: “I have tried to hold Tommy back sometimes because he just goes and goes and goes. (Nagle’s dad, Tom, a retired Army officer and West Point grad) and I have never pushed him to do anything. He has always pushed himself.”
Nagle, meantime, says he doesn’t want people to think he’s cooped up in his room and/or face-down in a swimming pool 24-7, miserably slaving away.
“I’m very happy,” he said. “It’s really all about time management. Yes, sometimes I feel a little stress, but never anything too bad. It’s all manageable.”
Just like his method in the pool.
Because he’s often the shortest competitor — and often in the middle of the pool because that’s where they start the fastest swimmers — he has to get in front quickly because the taller swimmers make bigger waves, which could bog him down in their currents.
He has to get ahead of those waves.
His advantage is that because he is smaller his stroke is much, much quicker, a rapid-fire piston slicing in front. But still, because of his size, he must be exceptionally efficient.
“That’s why every, single time I swim I focus on getting all the little details as finely tuned as possible,” said Nagle, who wants to swim in college while studying computer science. “I look at every swim, whether it’s in practice or in a meet, as an opportunity to get better. You have to make every second count.”
Time management … of course.