WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
CORAL SPRINGS—When it comes to swimming, the sky is the limit for Leonie Davies.
The British-born teenager has her sights clearly set on making her mark in a sport that she quickly fell in love with at age 7 when she started taking lessons in northern England.
After six years of hard work and dedication, first at the Bel Air Aquatic Club in Maryland and now with the Comets’ program, her progress has been remarkable.
Davies, 13, made her sectional cut in the 1,650-yard freestyle with a career-best time of 18 minutes, 25.16 seconds on the opening day of the Florida Gold Coast Junior Olympic Championships Wednesday at the Coral Springs Aquatic Complex.
Davies’ previous best time was 18:42.49. She now has seven sectional cuts in long and short course events.
Davies placed fourth among the eight-swimmer field. Geena Squartino, 14, of SwimFast won in 18:03.43.
“I was hoping for a best time so this is good and I am happy,” Davies said. “The last time my back end of my swim was slow, so I’m glad I could pick it up.”
Davies said she likes the longer races.
“It feels good when you finish them,” said Davies, who started out a backstroker and added distance events three years ago.
“It feels like an accomplishment plus I am not a very good sprinter. I love the adrenaline rush when I’m competing in the longer races. They give me more time to think about what I am doing rather than in the short races where you just go.
“I have been more of a distance swimmer so it’s nice to get my events out of the way so it doesn’t look so bad when I do bad in my other races.”
The mile was the first of seven events Davies will swim over three days when the meet resumes on Friday.
“I love the water,” said Davies, who trains six days a week. “I like my team. It’s more competitive and serious. I like to work hard. When I moved into the Gold group I realized that I had potential and I could really do something here.
“I want to go to the Olympics one day. I think it would be pretty cool. I like reaching for the stars. My heart is really into this. I know it is hard work but swimming is my priority.”
As a freshman on the West Broward swim team, Davies qualified for the state high school meet on the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relays.
SWANSON GOES THE DISTANCE
Carly Swanson is a quick study.
In only her second mile race, the 12-year-old swam a career-best time of 19:34.02 in the 11-12 age division.
“I swam 500s in practice and I really liked doing them so I asked my coach and she said she would put me in distance events,” said Swanson, who qualified for JOs in seven events.
“The first time I swam the mile I held a really good pace so I got to swim it a second time. I really like it. I know it’s going to get harder when I swim faster times. My goal is to drop my time in every race.”
Swanson, a sixth grader at St. Mark Catholic School in Southwest Ranches, said she loves having friends on the team and cheering for her. After gymnastics, soccer and dance classes, Swanson said swimming is her first love.
“I would like to swim through high school and college,” Swanson said. “I want to keep trying at everything to see what my best events are.”
MESA LEADS BOYS’ TEAM
Alfredo Mesa, 11, was the top boys’ finisher in the 1,650-yard freestyle.
Mesa, who entered the meet with a 20:12.32 seed time, swam a career-best 19:38.79. He was one of eight swimmers in the boys’ 11-12 race to better the previous FGJO mark of 22:17.09.
Two other Comet swimmers turned in career-best times in the 11-12 race. Raphael Mora, 11, was fourth in 19:40.75, bettering his previous best of 20:43.12. Alex Viloria, 12, was sixth in 20:43.39, bettering his previous best of 20:57.73.
In the boys’ 13-14 division, Blake Kelley, 14, was fifth in 17:30.38 and Javier Menchaca, 14, turned in his first short course time of 18:48.52.
After a rest day on Thursday, the four-day meet resumes Friday with a full schedule of preliminary and final events at the Coral Springs Aquatic Complex.
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org