Blue and orange plasters his walls, he wakes up next to a Gator Pillow Pet, and the university’s banner hangs from each wall. Senior and third-year swim captain Dylan Gornto bleeds University of Florida pride.
Holding two school records and sporting a Most Valuable Player award before his senior year, Gornto has proven to be a formidable swimmer in West Shore’s history. With his eyes now set on collegiate athletics, the university integral to his identity lies dominant as his main target.
“Since I was a little kid I’ve been going to Gator games with my family,” Gornto said. “My mom and my dad both went to UF and both graduated from there, and I was born in Gainesville so that’s a huge part of who I am. Every Saturday I watch the Gators play football and a lot of times I go up to Gainsville to see them play. Gainesville is a huge part of my childhood and is nostalgic for me, so swimming for the Gators and being able to play a sport at the collegiate level for my all-time favorite team would be out of this world and a dream come true.”
Though Gornto has demonstrated excellence in the sport for the past five years, the competition to swim for the University of Florida Gators is fierce, as Florida towers above the rest of the NCAA with the No. 1 dual ranking in Division 1 Men’s Swimming according to CollegeSwimming.
To elevate his swimming to the next tier of competition, Gornto participated in a selective swimming camp at the university during the summer, and was able to compete in the Senior Championship, a prestigious competition for the most impressive swimmers in the state .
“Dylan attended a swim camp at University of Florida where he had two practices a day, the first one at 5 a.m.,” boys’ swimming coach and Dylan’s father Donald Gornto said. “Last year, Dylan wanted to make time cuts for the Senior Championship swim meet … several meets came and went and Dylan didn’t make the necessary times to qualify for the meet. [This summer] he listened to the coaches and improved his technique. Finally, at the last meet that he could qualify, he had several incredible swims earning the qualifying times which enabled him to swim in the Championship meet in Fort Pierce.”
According to eighth-grader Lance Stern, Dylan fulfills his captain duties not only by being the fastest swimmer on the school team in his respective events, but also by demonstrating first-class leadership.
“I look up to Dylan,” he said. “He shows leadership on the team by encouraging everyone to keep going even in hard sets, and has personally influenced me with his leadership by helping me learn. He helps me do the strokes if I am doing them wrong.”
Like all athletes, Gornto will face his share of challenges on his way to accomplishing his goals.
“Everything in life has obstacles,” Donald Gornto said. “There is a Japanese proverb ‘Nana korobi ya oki’ which translates to ‘fall seven times, stand up eight.’ Some common obstacles in swimming are lightning, hot pool water, chemicals out of whack, and injuries. Another great thing about sports is the ability to overcome those obstacles.”