Gator All-American swimmer Bobby Finke makes waves in Tampa Bay

Bobby Finke swims, fast and far. At the SEC championships in February, the Florida Gator won the 1650 yard freestyle event -- and he set an American record in doing it.

"I did not like that race at all," recalled Finke, who clocked in at 14 minutes and 12 seconds. "It hurt a lot... I'm normally someone who doesn't shy away from going out too fast. I typically go out fast and just hold on the best I can. But I paid a little bit for it."

The gamble paid off. He now holds the school record, SEC record, NCAA record, and American record, and he has two more years at the University of Florida to break his own record.

Weeks after that historic swim, life changed for us all. Bobby returned to the Bay Area after the COVID-19 school closures.

He encountered increasing difficulty finding a place to swim.

"We had a pool at my club team for a few days, then that got shut down. Then we were doing some beach swims, and all that got shut down," he said.

Out of other options, Bobby got creative. He used the Bay Area backyard.

"I was lucky enough to have a friend who had a dock," Finke said. "We would jump out in and swim a little bit out in the mangrove areas around the Bay."

When asked how tough it is to swim fast in saltwater, as opposed to a chlorinated pool, he chuckled.

"It feels a little bit thicker. It's harder to pull through. Also, there's a lot of waves out there, people on boats, boating around you, and you might be breathing on one side and you might just get a face full of water and all of a sudden you're choking," he said.

The Florida Gator swim team will defend its SEC Championship when the season starts up anew. And Bobby Finke will take his lessons learned in Tampa Bay back to Gainesville.