Substance and style

Brothers Ryan and Matt Stumpf excel in the water and in the classroom at Tampa Prep.

Published November 1, 2006

TAMPA - They watch their empty-calorie intake but very little television. They are honor students and altar boys, championship swimmers and aspiring engineers.

To any mother or swim coach, they are the Stumpfs that dreams are made of.

View them on the surface, and Tampa Prep siblings Ryan and Matt Stumpf seem too good to be true. View them on the water's surface, and it appears they may be good enough to bring home a few medals from Saturday's Class A state meet in Fort Lauderdale.

Collectively, Ryan, 17, and Matt, 16, own or share eight school records. At last week's regional, each won an event (Ryan the 100-yard freestyle, Matt the 100 breaststroke), placed in the top three in another and helped two Terrapins relay teams to runnerup finishes.

"I have known them for about 12 years, and our relationship goes back to when they were blowing bubbles in the water," Tampa Bay Community Aquatics coach Rich Rogers said. "The one great aspect about the both of them is that they are incredible team players."

At the ages of 10 and 8, the two were introduced to the pool with the help of Rogers. Like their personalities, both of their initial views about swimming differ.

"I was just out there swimming. I wasn't out there to compete," Ryan recalled. "It wasn't until I was like, 11, that I realized that I was good at swimming and that I could compete in it. That's when it became fun."

Added Matt: "When I started swimming, everyone seemed so much older than me. My first impression was that I never thought I'd be up in one of the faster swimming lanes."

Seven years later, they led the TBAY team to a first-place finish at the USA Swimming Junior National Championships in Irvine, Calif.

"They can step up to the challenge and help the team out," Rogers said.

In addition to their demanding swim schedule and commute (from their Palm Harbor home), the Stumpfs find themselves spending time together as altar boys at their church, officers in the National Honor Society and as members of the rowing team, an advanced placement chemistry class and the school's math tutoring program.

Five days a week, they rise hours before dawn to attend the Terrapins' morning swim practice (6-7:30 a.m.) and attend a TBAY workout after school (4-7:30 p.m.).

"We just seem to do everything together," Ryan said.

The brothers attribute their dedication to the support they receive from their parents, John and Joanne. Their mom requires each to eat at least one banana a day and shuns processed foods. Pizza rolls, for instance, are made from scratch by Joanne.

"My mom does not leave us alone about eating nutritious," Matt said. "She's not one of those crazy parents that force you to do something. She is more like, 'Boys, if you want it (to reach a goal), here's what you have to do.' "

"They have an awareness that they want more from themselves than opening a bag of chips," Joanne Stumpf said. "They eat in a utilitarian way to serve their bodies."

With limited leisure time in their week, the brothers don't have much time to watch television.

To the contrary, remaining waking moments are spent on homework, as evidenced by their grades.

Ryan carries a 3.5 grade point average; Matt a 4.0. Both are part of USA Swimming's Scholastic All-American Team, composed of high school student-athletes with a GPA of 3.5 or higher who swam in various national and championship events.

As a senior, Ryan is setting goals for college. He wants to study engineering at a college where he will be able to swim. Matt is basing his college choice on whether the school has a swim program.

"They don't allow a godlike aura to permeate them," Joanne Stumpf said. "They're kids, and they want other kids to love swimming and be part of sports.

"They are just teenagers that love their lives and commitments."

FHSAA Swim Finals

Where: Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Complex

When: Thursday - Class 2A; Friday - Class 3A; Saturday - Class A (Two sessions daily, 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.)

Admission: $7

Class A: Jesuit's boys, the region team champions, have an excellent shot at finishing second to Olympic-level juggernaut Jacksonville Bolles. Tigers senior Tommy Wyher and Tampa Prep girls senior Chelsea Nauta enter with five state titles each.

Class 2A: Newsome's boys won last week's region title, while Plant's girls finished third. Watch for Wolves sophomore Jason Taylor, who won region crowns in the 200 individual medley and 500 freestyle. Leto senior Jorge Ospina-Casas also enters with two region titles (100 fly, 200 free).

Class 3A: Sickles' boys and girls, who each placed fifth at last week's regional, could make some noise. Gryphons junior Veronica Case won a region title in a hotly contested 50 freestyle, while sophomore Greggory Cook missed out on the boys 50 free title by one-hundredth of a second. Durant's Kaylee Doback and Christopher Plante enter as region diving champions.