It takes a great deal of discipline to be a superb athlete in any sport. Many set long-term goals. Young Tae Seo likes to do things a little differently.
Seo, who just finished his sophomore year at Crescenta Valley High, is one of the top swimmers in the nation. He earned All-America honors in three individual and three relay events.
He has been named the Montrose Patch Spring Athlete of the Year.
“I always have goals. I set my goal for each event,” Seo said in response to an email. “I write it down, splits and goal time. Then I put it on the wall so I can see that every morning and before I go to bed.”
In many of his disciplines, Seo has left the clock as his only enemy.
He won the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 title in the 200 individual medley in 1 minute, 48.38 seconds, breaking the 1987 record of Darren Ward of Sonora of La Habra, who went 1:48.83. His time was the ninth best in the nation for the year, and best among sophomores.
Seo won the 100 breaststroke in a Division 2 record 55.81, breaking the 1997 record of Steve Poling of Laguna Hills (56.37). Seo’s mark was the 14th best in the nation for the year and second amongst sophomores.
He also helped CV win the 200 medley relay in yet another Division 2 record of 1:33.79.
“What he’s done is pretty amazing to break a 24-year-old CIF record,” said Terry Stoddard, his club coach with Swim Pasadena.
Stoddard said Seo’s attitude is what makes him so special.
“Right now he has a countdown in his mind of when everything is,” Stoddard said of all the major world swim events. He’s very goal-oriented. He’s very easy to coach because of his training habits and his focus.”
Seo, who started swimming at the age of nine and has been competing since he was 10, has two years left of high school.
But of course he is looking at achieving more than just CIF titles.
“(I want to) make NCAA automatic cut and go to college that I want,” Seo said of his goals by the end of his high school career.
Born in South Korea, Seo said he is an American citizen and would like to compete internationally for the United States, but hasn’t ruled out competing for his birth nation.
“I think he has potential for the Olympic Trials in three events,” Stoddard said.
Seo said he enjoys swimming the 400 individual medley and 200 butterfly, neither or which are distances contested at the high school level.
His high school coach, Jan Sakonju, who has seen a number of All-Americans come through his program, thinks Seo is on his way to being in elite company.
“He could finish his career as one of the greatest swimmers this school has ever had,” Sakonju said. “What makes him stand out not just from his teammates but from all of the swimmers that we’ve ever had here is that he’s the complete package. He’s got natural talent and he also has a champion work ethic. He’s just an incredible person to coach.”
Young Tae Seo may be just 17-years-old, but all indications are that he won’t settle for anything short of being the best that he can be.