Teia Salvino is your average 13-year-old.
She likes spending time with her family and friends. She has two brothers and two sisters, and grew up wanting to copy her older sister.
She’s a pretty typical teenanger.
Except when it comes to swimming.
Salvino broke the Southern California Swimming record for the 50-yard freestyle in the 11-12 girls age group in early November (she has since turned 13), at the Kevin Perry Meet in La Mirada. She clocked in with a time of 23.71, besting the previous record set by Claire McClean from Westside Aquatics by 0.15 seconds.
To break a record at such a young age, especially in such a competitive state as California, is a rare achievement.
“Socal swimming has over 30,000 athletes. In my opinion the pinnacle is here, Florida and Texas. Those are the three most competitive states to swim,” said Salvino’s coach at Paseo Aquatics Club, Daiki Sato. “If you are one of the top athletes in your age group, you’re bound to be top in the nation. That’s how cutthroat and competitive it is in these states.”
“I was mostly just in shock,” Salvino said when she found out she set a new record in the 50-yard freestyle.
Salvino started swimming at the age of seven and joined the Paseo Aquatics Club because her older sister was a swimmer there.
She’s come a long way since she began swimming five years ago, with her talent and hard work coming to fruition earlier this year.
“What I think the turning point in her career was last February, we had a meet and she got beat really bad by one of the girls in her age group,” Sato said. “After that race, she came up to me and said, ‘Hey coach, I really want to work on my underwaters.’ That was the turning point in my opinion.
“We trained so hard, we developed this skill, refining other skills in the process and that same girl we beat in March. That kind of started an upward trend of her career right now.”
Salvino possesses several qualities that are hard to come by in 13-year-olds. She’s a gifted athlete, and has the physical tools necessary to succeed in the sport.
She is able to block out outside noise and has a calmness about her when on the starting block that her coach describes feels like “a storm is brewing behind her.”
But perhaps what makes her stand out the most is here ability to put a bad race behind her and move on to the next without dwelling on it, according to her coach.
“She has a championship mindset. She has a short memory. Similar to a quarterback,” Sato said. “They throw an interception, like an elite quarterback who throws one, they forget about it, move on and keep dominating.
“It’s like that with her. It’s a skill she has internally that’s so impressive. I think it’s rare. Even at the top echelon of the girls, the top three or four in her caliber of swimming, I don’t think they have that same mindset. That evolution that she keeps going through and the speed of it is unreal.”
As Salvino continues to evolve as a swimmer, she has set clear goals for herself in the short-term and in the long-term.
“I have high expectations for myself. I want to keep refining my skills and to keep the intensity up,” she said of her present goals, then adding: “I want to go to the Olympics in 2028 and I want to go to Cal-Berkeley for college.”