By Sharon Robb
August 24, 2015—After a summer full of travel and competing in U.S. and international meets, South Florida Aquatic Club swimmers are ready for the next chapter.
On Monday, swimmers of all levels from the SOPRO group of post-grads and Olympians to age group swimmers returned to the friendly confines of Academic Village Pool in Pembroke Pines to resume training.
Several U.S. swimmers are training for the U.S. Olympic Trials. International swimmers are trying to make their countries’ Olympic qualifying standards. Others are training for junior and senior nationals, the high school season and age group meets.
SOFLO CEO and head coach Chris Anderson and SOFLO Performance Consultant Bruce Marchionda welcomed swimmers back on Monday before hitting the pool for workout.
SOPRO is comprised of six pro swimmers including three-time Jamaican Olympian Alia Atkinson, a world short course record holder and gold medalist; U.S. Olympic gold medalist Claire Donahue; Colombian two-time Olympian and national record holder Carolina Colorado; Colombian national record holder Jorge Murillo Valdes; Bermuda national champion Lisa Blackburn and Wright State alum and school record holder Kile Aukerman.
“It was wonderful getting Alia and Claire in a training environment,” Anderson said. “It really feels like we have started training in a pre-season mode.
“There’s a vibe that they accomplished something great over the summer and now they are focused on next summer and focusing on the trials and Olympics.”
The SOPRO post-grad group started training Monday morning and national group in the afternoon.
“I think everybody is really excited about being home,” Anderson said. “There is a sense of relief to start training and start getting better again.”
SOPRO swimmers competed in the Pan American Games, FINA World Championships and first two legs of the FINA World Cup. For the various age group levels there was also Senior Championships, Junior Olympics, Junior Nationals, Futures, Southern Zone Seniors and Age Group meets.
“These past few months have been a learning experience for everyone,” Anderson said. “Everyone is getting more comfortable in executing their plans for the various competitions from overseas to local meets.
“At least we all have a clear picture of what has to be done…whether it’s making the U.S. Olympic trials, an Olympic standard for a country or tweaking something to get to that next step. Everyone has a clear picture. We have never done that before. Now we know what we have to do to actually succeed.”
With a success-breeds-success attitude, Anderson would like the SOPRO group to increase to 15 swimmers over the next few weeks. The pro swimmers are training for the second cluster of the FINA World Cup in Asia while the age group team, with nearly 200 swimmers, is training for the Sept. 25-27 IMX Ready and Distance Challenge Open Invitational.
“We want to create an atmosphere of high quality training,” Anderson said. “We have some of the finest athletes in the world training in our pool and that creates a culture of success. This is the most excited I’ve been since I have been here.”
The SOFLO coaching staff has already met six times and plan to raise the bar this season with their individual groups.
“We are doing a good job and now we need our staff to take more of a role and think above and beyond the kids they have in their groups,” Anderson said.
Anderson is coaching the pros and running the senior kids program. Marchionda, who started his new SOFLO job earlier this month, is coaching the gold and national group and helping with the pro group.
“It seems to be working well,” Anderson said.
Pembroke Pines Charter School’s high school team with head coach Rose Lockie, SOFLO’s head age group coach, is also training at Academic Village Pool.
In addition to pool training, there is dryland featuring gym work, yoga and cardio.
Anderson and Marchionda plan to talk with potential new SOPRO and post-grad swimmers over the next three weeks hoping to finalize the roster by the end of the month for the eight-month journey to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org