They can lean on each other and go to each other for support when times get tough. For Delta State University swimmers Tobias “Toby” Tombers and Melanie Tombers, their relationship with each other has served them well as they’ve made a positive impact at DSU.
So far this season, Toby, a junior, has had some great success as he, Yvan Nys, Vlad Zinca and Fabrice Wendel set a school record in the men’s 400-yard medley relay with a time of 3:18.20 during the DSU Christmas Invitational earlier this month at the Delta State Aquatic Center.
Melanie, who is a freshman, has already experienced some great success. She has set school records in the women’s 500-yard freestyle (4:52.06), the 200-yard individual medley (2:04.06), 200-yard breaststroke (2:16.95) and the 400-yard individual medley (4:19.72). She is also a member of two relay teams that set school records in the 400-yard freestyle relay (3:30.27) and the 800-yard freestyle relay (7:30.73). Melanie has already qualified for the NCAA Division II National Championships in March at Geneva, Ohio.
Toby and Melanie developed their love for swimming in their hometown of Dusseldorf, Germany.
“We swam for our club team in Dusseldorf from 2005 on,” Toby said. “We got to know many people and they got to know you. The pool was very close to our home, so that’s one of the main reasons why I started swimming and why Melanie started swimming. This was big.”
The two swimmers are a long way from home as Dusseldorf, Germany is approximately over 4,700 miles from Cleveland, Miss.
When Toby was looking for places to go to college at, he wanted to go to the best place that suited him best. There wasn’t a place where he could study and swim at the same time in Germany and when the opportunity came up to swim at Delta State he couldn’t pass it up.
“I really wanted to keep on studying and swimming at the same time,” Toby said. “I heard about this opportunity in the states to do it, so I contacted an organization to find a contact for me in the states. They tell you what to do and the different tests you have to accomplish. When all this is done, they find your contacts and one of them was Delta State. I got in contact with Dan’l and also with Alex Lorenz and Wolfgang Mariniger. They were two Germans and Austrians that were here. So, I got into contact with them. This all built up and it made me decide on Delta State.”
Toby’s time at DSU has been one that he has cherished. He’s earned All New South Intercollegiate Swim Conference honors in each of his first two years. In the NSISC meet last February, he swam person best times in the 200-yard individual medley (1:56.84) and the 400-yard individual medley (4:06.92).
The decision to come to Delta State has been one that Toby has not regretted.
“I really enjoy this pool,” Toby said. “It’s a very good pool. Cleveland is a small city, so you’re not distracted that much from studying and swimming. It makes you focus a lot, so I really like that. It is pretty enjoyable here.”
For Melanie, going to the United States was something she didn’t consider much for a while. She realized that coming to the United States was her best option as far as going to college. Melanie made it clear right off the bat where she wanted to go to school in America.
“I was scared to come down here, so I just said, I will go to the university my brother goes or I don’t go,” Melanie said. “They (her parents and DSU) wanted to have me here and then I said okay. My daddy said it was the best thing you could do. Kids here can study and swim hard at the same time.”
Melanie, 19, said having her older brother at the school with her has helped her out tremendously as far as adjusting to college life in America.
“The communication was easier,” Melanie said “I could talk to my brother. He could help me with all the tests I had to do and the translation of all my exams.”
With Melanie feeling comfortable at DSU, she has shown a strong work ethic in setting school records at DSU. Her time of 4:19.72 in the 400-yard individual medley at the DSU Christmas Meet is currently the fastest time in the nation this year in that event in Division II. She also earned Counsilman Hunsaker Women’s Division II Swimmer of the Week in November.
Melanie said when she was swimming back home in Germany, she wasn’t doing it for awards.
“I just always swam,” Melanie said. “I just practiced because I liked it. Now, I realize when you practice hard you get rewards, and it’s fun to get acknowledged by the things that you do.”
Toby said having his younger sister at DSU has proven to be a special experience.
“It’s very different from home,” Toby said. “At home, we were competing against each other also in the pool. In a different environment, it’s also a different relationship. We’re a lot closer. I really enjoy watching and supporting her more than I did at home. It’s great to have her here. It’s nice to have a family member around you. That makes a big difference.”
Toby said he has been very impressed with how well Melanie has swam at Delta State.
“Right now, my sister is very fast,” Toby said. “I have trouble keeping up with her, especially in freestyle.”
Toby and Melanie have gotten along well with their teammates. They are pleased with how well everyone works together.
“The chemistry is great,” Toby said. “We had a team meeting, and Dan’l (Murray) said that even other coaches talk about how well the team works together. The guys are one group.”
“We get along really good with each other,” Melanie said about the rest of the women on the team. “We’re living in the dorms, and we do a lot of stuff together. We’re close, and we’ve gotten to know each other. We have a lot of classes together, we practice together and we live together. We’re like a family.”
Another important factor in the development of Melanie and Toby was the fact that their parents, Peter and Birgit Tombers, were by their side growing up. During the Christmas meet at Delta State University earlier this month, their parents came all the way down from Germany to watch them swim.
“My mom always went with us to the swim meets,” Toby said. “My dad was a coach, so he understands what is happening. My mom still swims masters, so she also understands a lot. It’s all very supportive, and they understand what we go through.”
Melanie said she has a very close relationship with her mother.
“When my mom is not here, I always miss her a lot, because she was the person I could talk to,” Melanie said. “When my mom is there, I always feel like I can do it. When I’m sad and nervous and scared, she’s always like you can do it. I believe in you.”
One thing that would be special for the two swimmers is if they are able to compete in the Division II Nationals together. Toby is still trying to qualify for nationals.
Toby said seeing his sister make nationals already is a huge motivator. He would like nothing more than to make nationals.
“That would be great,” Toby said. “I haven’t made it yet. I have this third year. I know how everything works, and I’ve put a lot into it. I hope it works out at the end of the day, and it would be great to do it my first year my sister is there.”