Pushing the Limit

Nikolai Solgaard, Grant Shorin, Staff Writers

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Four years ago, Jasmine Tosky (‘12) and Byron Sanborn (‘12) first dove into the Palo Alto High school pool. Fast forward through thousands of hours of intense practices, and the result is a combined 14 top-three finishes at the Central Coast Section (CCS) swim meet over their first three years, and a sure-to-be lasting legacy with the Paly swim team.

Tosky and Sanborn will compete at the 2012 Olympic swimming Trials in Omaha, Nebraska after qualifying for the event during the Junior Nationals Swim meet this past August.  Despite their competition, the best swimmers in the United States, both Tosky and Sanborn have high hopes to perform well at the trials.Not surprisingly, the commitment required of this elite level of swimming is enormous. Both Sanborn and Tosky push their bodies to the limit training 20 hours each week, which includes time in the water as well as on land. Typically, they have five after school practices and three morning practices each week, which take place from 4:00 to 5:30 a.m.“The intensity [of practice] is always rising, and it always feels like the amount of hours in the pool is more and more,” Tosky said.Tony Batis, Tosky and Sanborn’s Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics (PASA) coach of four years, believes that a large part of their mentality and devotion to the sport has been developed during practice.Batis also discussed how Sanborn and Tosky could reach their Olympic aspirations.

“From the time they started swimming with me, a lot of the growth is in the understanding of where the sport can take them,” Batis said.

For Sanborn, qualifying has been a long-standing goal. He qualified for the trials in the 200 meter breast stroke, as he posted a five second improvement over his previous personal best at the Junior Nationals this August.

“I personally was ecstatic because trials had been this big goal and I hadn’t really been expecting it before 2012.” Sanborn said, “When I realized I had the chance to do it, I was amazed, and then I actually got it and was really happy.”

Batis feels that both Sanborn and Tosky have “grown up and become great young people in our program [at PASA].”

Undoubtedly the Olympic trials will be a highlight of the earlier segment of their swimming careers, but both have plans that extend well beyond the 2012 Olympics. Nevertheless, their accomplishment is something to take pride in.

“I think that was a big accomplishment and a very pleasant surprise,” Batis said.

However great their careers at Paly have been, both Sanborn and Tosky’ future careers on the world stage promise to be even more thrilling.

Byron Sanborn
For athletes, finding a balance between sports and academics is a constant struggle, but swimmer Byron Sanborn (‘12) achieved a balance that has allowed him to excel.

Sanborn’s motivation to swim stems from his early youth when he lived in Hong Kong, a country of which he is a citizen. Sanborn’s mother, Virginia Lee, first introduced him to swimming, but as he grew older, he began to take more control of his swimming.

“He has always liked swimming,” Lee said, “even when he was really young.”

Sanborn also thinks that his love for swimming was instantaneous from the beginning.

“I guess I had a natural affinity for it,” Sanborn said. “So when I came to America, [my mother] decided to try me out for the team and I liked it. Actually I ended up quitting for like a month one time, but then I got back into it because I realized I was really bored without it. After that I was motivated by myself.”Sanborn acknowledges that there are some downsides to swimming. As a dedicated student, he has had to sacrifice time academically since the time considerations required by swimming does not allow for a complete focus on school.“You miss a lot, because our practices are sometimes during prime time for social activities,” Sanborn said. “I’ve [also] had to sacrifice [academically]. I would have probably taken harder classes last year, but that would have been impossible.”Sanborn’s junior year classes consisted of AP U.S. history, AP Calculus AB, Physics  1A, American classics H, Humanities H, Chinese 4, economics and living skills. This year he is enrolled in Chinese 5 AP psychology,  AP english,  AP statistics, marine biology, sociology and foreign policy.His mother believes that his academics have not sufferred despite the time he spent swimming.

“Basically in our family we care a lot about our kids doing well in school,” Lee said.  “So he knew that he couldn’t slack off because of swimming. So what he had to sacrifice was other activities like soccer, arts, or even volunteering, so time came out of that instead of academics.”

Sanborn’s classmate Nassim Fedel (‘12) understands the pressure of Sanborn’s workload better than anyone.

“I don’t know how he balances school and swimming the way he does,” Fedel said. “For me, I’m up past midnight on a regular basis and that’s without competitive swimming.”

Balancing the two will prove even more difficult as he grows older because Sanborn aspires to swim in the Olympics.

He qualified for the trials in the 200 meter breast-stroke, as he posted a five second improvement over his previous personal best at the Junior Nationals this August with a time of 2:20.73.

“I personally was ecstatic because trials had been this big goal, and I hadn’t really been expecting it before 2012,” Sanborn said. “When I realized I had the chance to do it, I was amazed, and then I actually got it and was really happy.”

Sanborn’s Paly swim team teammate Youngkuk Lee (‘12) believes that Sanborn has earned his success.

“It’s not very surprising that he got that far [in qualifying for the Olympics],” Youngkuk said. “Honestly, he’s just well rounded.”

People who know Sanborn will tell you he is well rounded.

“What stood out to me even more than Byron’s abilities [in the classroom] was his modesty,” Fedel said. “You don’t often have people who are that smart and modest about it.”

Sanborn plans to continue his swimming career well beyond the trials.

“Right now I’m looking into colleges, [and] that’s kind of a big part of the motivation the past few years,” Sanborn said. “And through college, I’m thinking of maybe trying to swim for Hong Kong and possibly qualify for the 2016 Olympics.”

His mother is happy with wherever Sanborn decides to go with swimming, as long as he plans to work on academics as well.

“Wherever he wants it to take him,” Virginia said. “I know that he is being recruited by the top schools that he is interested in. As a parent, that is obviously what we wanted, is for him to go to a good school. But as far as he wants it to go in swimming, that is up to him.”

Whatever Sanborn chooses to pursue over the next few years with school and swimming, one thing remains certain: he will leave Paly with the legacy of performing on the world stage.

Jasmine Tosky

During Tosky’s first three years swimming for Paly, she has swum in 10 top three finishes and set five new CCS records, including a national high school record of 51.92 seconds in the 100-yard butterfly.

Tosky’s passion for swimming stems from her father efforts, as Julian Tosky was a large reason why she started swimming, and he continues to play important role in her development.

“When I was little, I used to watch him swim and I got interested and so I just kept swimming,” Tosky said. “My dad made me go to all the practices.”

Julian knew she was a swimmer from the moment he introduced her to swimming.

“The first time I put her in the pool she was a year and a half old and I remember taking her into the pool, and she just screamed. She thought it was the greatest thing in the world,” Julian said. “She always had a really good feel for the water. She somehow moved in the water very well.”

While Tosky has reached great distances, she has had to give up many things for her swimming.

“Right now I’m kind of dieting,” Tosky said. “I’m pretty much eating my vegetables and fruit and lean meat. I mean, my dad plays a big role in this because he’s making me eat all this since he makes my meals. And I mean, the better I eat, the better I feel.”

Julian prepares the majority of Tosky’s meals and believes that poor nutrition is detrimental to performance. On a typical day, Tosky may eat the following: A waffle and some milk for breakfast, than cereal after morning practice. Throughout the rest of the day she may eat a yogurt and a tuna sandwich, a vegetable plate and maybe a powerbar. She finishes the day with a regular dinner prepared by her mother. Of all the foods she can no longer eat, Cheez-Its are what she misses most.

“All the sacrifices are worth it,” Tosky said. “I socialize at swim meets so that makes up for missing out on social events.”

Paly teammate Alex Lin (‘12) believes that Tosky’s talent is complimented by her attitude.

“I think she has a really great work ethic,” Lin said. “I’ve never seen her complain once. I think she has a great mentality about swimming and I can tell that she really loves it.”

Julian agrees that the mental aspect of Jasmine’s swimming is just as valuable as the physical.

“She is very competitive, and she also is always working on improving her stroke,” Julian said.

Her dedication to her training is part of what has led to Tosky’s success.

Currently, Tosky’s eleven Olympic Trial qualifying times are the most of all swimmers nationally (even more than swimmer Michael Phelps), an impressive feat considering she is only 18.

Tosky has qualified in: the 50, 100, 200, 400, and 800 meter freestyle, 100 and 200 meter  butterfly, 100 and 200 meter breaststroke, and 200 and 400 meter individual medley.

While the 2012 Olympic swim team trials will certainly be memorable moment in her swimming career, Julian believes that there is still much to look forward to.

“We always hope to get to the Olympics,” Julian said. “That’s always the big hope. But she has gotten onto the U.S. national team. This past summer she was practicing in the same lane as Michael Phelps, so she has gotten into that level of swimmers, where she was swimming with Natalie Coughlin, Dana Vollmer, Rebecca Soni, and Jessica Hardy.”

Tosky also has goals that extend past the trials.

“I would like to travel and just swim internationally at big meets,” Tosky said. “And of course, I’ll be swimming in college, and I plan on swimming more after college.”

Tosky’s criteria for college are slightly different than your average student.

“Actually, her choice of colleges was determined by the swimming schools,” Julian said. “I looked it up and found the top five swimming schools in the U.S. and we went from there. We didn’t really look at any other schools.”

With considerable talent and a great attitude, Tosky’s hopes of qualifying for the Olympics at this years’ trials look within reach.

“It’s really cool [to be on the world stage],” Tosky said. “I meet amazing people, I’m friends with a lot of the people from the national team. It’s just really fun.”