Ryan Lochte is the first to admit he wasn’t always a fast swimmer.

He said it took time, patience and hard work before he turned the corner and became a two-time Olympian and world record holder.

“The thing that got me going was myself,” said Lochte during a recent visit to Fort Lauderdale.

“When I was growing up, we would go to JOs every year and I would always get beat every time in every race.”

He used those disappointments as motivation.

“When I was around 13 or 14, I told my dad that it was never going to happen again,” Lochte said. “From then on I was more focused in practice. I committed myself to swimming fully and kept going from there.

“Now, when I talk to young kids at swim clinics or schools, the main thing I want them to understand is that to get where I am at, you don’t have to be fast right away,” Lochte said.

“Growing up I was really bad. I was never the fastest swimmer. I had to work at that. I just want them to know that you can always get better no matter what. You don’t have to be always great to become great.”

One of the early turning points in the Canandaigua, N.Y.-born Lochte’s swimming career came when his father, Steve, a club and college swim coach moved his family from Rochester, N.Y. to Daytona Beach because swimming was more popular in Florida.

Lochte flourished in the Sunshine State. He was a solid club and high school swimmer at Spruce Creek High School in Port Orange. But he added that he wasn’t the best swimmer coming out of high school and not heavily recruited.

University of Florida only offered him a scholarship after two other swimmers turned the school down.

“No one believed in me back then, but I knew what I could do, I believed in me,” said Lochte, a 24-time collegiate All-American.

Despite success during his teen years, Lochte knew there was more work to do in college if he was going to take it to the next level.

“It wasn’t until my freshman year in college that I felt like I could do something in this sport,” Lochte said.

“After my freshman year, I won my first big international meet at the Pan American Games and broke the Pan Am record in the morning. No one expected me to be close to that. From then on I thought, ‘wow, I did something that not many people can do.’

“Then my sophomore year I won NCAAs for my first time. From then on I was like ‘I can do this.’

Lochte, now 25, has compiled an impressive resume in individual medley, backstroke and freestyle events.

The three-time Olympic gold medalist and 12-time Olympic and world medalist won an Olympic gold medal in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay and silver medal in the 200-meter individual medley at the 2004 Games.

Four years later in Beijing, he took gold in the 200-meter backstroke and 4×200 free relay and bronze medals in the 200- and 400-meter individual medleys.

“Every great swim I had I kept feeding off it,” Lochte said. “I kept on getting better and better. I kept reminding myself I had that first great race and I could do even better. I kept on going for the 2004 Olympics and kept going after that.”

Lochte never loses sight of what keeps him in swimming.

“When I was a little kid I was just having fun,” Lochte said. “I remember coming to meets and getting a bunch of icees. My mouth would turn blue and I was just having fun with all my friends. I am kind of still the same way.

“The most important thing is to have fun. I tell kids for me having fun is racing. I race in practice, I race at meets. Everything I do I try to make it a race because that’s fun for me and I love it. That’s why I keep swimming.”

Losing also motivates him in the pool.

“I am very competitive, I hate to lose,” he said. “If I do lose I lose, but I am not going to crawl in my own cubby hole  and cry or anything like that. I am just going to forget about it and move on.”

From late August to October, Lochte used his down time to travel, model, make appearances and speak at swim clinics. He has a contract with Ford Modeling Agency.

“Modeling is something different,” Lochte said. “I am used to modeling in my Speedo and comfortable with that, but now I am doing real business clothes and suits. It is different. My main thing I want to do is design my own clothing line. It would be some kind of business suit with a twist to it, like a rock star-surfer laidback business suit.

“Swimming is always going to be the priority until I’m done. That’s just how I want it to be. I am just doing the modeling thing and other stuff on the side.”

In November 2009, Lochte underwent knee surgery to repair damage  to his medial collateral ligament, an injury suffered while dancing with friends.

“I should have made up a better excuse for it, like I got hit by a car or saved a child,” Lochte smiled.

During his recovery, he worked on his upper body. That added strength showed when he got back in the pool.

“I was doing a lot of upper body lifting in the weight room, bench pressing, dumb bells and strongman work,” Lochte said. “I was trying to get my upper body stronger because I couldn’t do anything with my legs.

“Once I got into the pool, I started slimming down but still had all that muscle. I think that’s what helped me. I am a lot stronger in the water. A couple of coaches came up to me at a meet and said ‘wow, we know you’re not going best times, but you look a lot stronger in the water.

“Now that my knee is back in shape and I am getting stronger when everything comes together I am really excited to see what I can do this summer. I think it’s going to be good.”

Lochte has already committed to training for the 2012 London Olympics. He said he could swim as many as nine events.

“I am not done with my swimming career. There is so much more I want to accomplish that I know I can. It’s just a matter of time. I think 2012 is where it’s most likely going to happen.”

Lochte will probably lock horns with U.S. teammate Michael Phelps. Lochte said he tries not to pay attention to the limelight when it’s shining on him or other swimmers. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he was cast in Phelps’ shadow despite some outstanding individual and relay performances.

“I am always in my own world and it doesn’t bother me at all when other swimmers are getting the attention,” Lochte said. “I kind of like it because it gives me something to look forward to doing, that I have a purpose going into that water. I think at worlds I broke out of the background and showed myself l can do it. I just have to keep that ball rolling.”

Lochte has returned to training in Gainesville “basically where my career started” and where he owns a house. He works with Gator swimmers, past and present, and coaching staff.

“As you get older, you start looking to the other things in practice, whether it’s going up and down the pool hauling butt all out, all the time,” Lochte said. “You start focusing on the little things like technique. You start doing less yardage just because your body can’t handle all the pounding. I definitely am more aware of my swimming now than I have been before.”

Now that the swim suit issue has been resolved and playing field is even again, Lochte said normalcy will return to the sport and spotlight will be back on swimmers and not the suit.

“Everyone was looking for the suit to help them go fast and now it’s not the case,” Lochte said. “Now it’s have you trained? Have you done the work? How bad do you want it? All that stuff comes into play now and that’s where I like it.”

Lochte’s next meet will be the May 13-16 Charlotte Ultraswim Grand Prix in Charlotte, N.C. He will be joined by Aaron Piersol and Phelps. The meet will be a training gauge for Lochte who is gearing up for the Aug. 18-24 Pan Pacific Championships in Irvine, Calif.

“I want to do really well there,” Lochte said. “Then it’s short course worlds in Dubai, world championships next summer and after that 2012 Olympics.

“The sport is still fresh for me because I love racing,” Lochte said. “The time when I stop loving racing and not having fun in swimming is when I quit and walk away from the sport. But I honestly don’t see that happening soon.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com






DAVIE—On an emotionally-charged night in the grand ballroom of the Signature Grand, the Comets swim team celebrated the 2009-2010 season and a future full of promise.

In a festive atmosphere, more than 400 swimmers, parents, coaches and volunteers shared laughs and tears while reliving some of the highlights of the Comets 11th season.

It was a historical night for the Comets celebrating their final banquet before beginning a new chapter as the South Florida Aquatic Club.

CEO Chris Anderson announced that the merger between the Comets and Coral Springs Swim Club is now official and that SOFLO signed Nike as its first major sponsor.

The Comets coaching staff of Chris Anderson, Chris Grace, George Mersinger, Alex Wlosek, Rosemarie Lockie and Luis Soler took turns handing out awards for most improved, most dedicated and most valuable swimmers in six different age groups, from 8-and-unders to seniors.

The Comets also honored 12 high school seniors all about to embark on their next journey to college, but hopefully, Anderson said will be back for summers and holidays.

“It was such a pleasure to watch a fine group of seniors,” Anderson said. “I can’t wait for the future years when they come back.”

The seniors honored were Andy Alvarez (University of Miami), Melissa Fernandez (George Washington University), Stephanie Freiria (Florida Atlantic), Kevin Ganaim (Embry-Riddle), Ashley Hicks (Florida State), Travis Lockie (New Mexico Military Institute), Courtney Marx (Western Kentucky), Bianca Muniz (St. Leo College), Tiffany Oliver (Florida State), Tyler Sell (Florida State), Jake Shultz (Trinity) and Julio Simon (University of Miami).

Some of the most poignant moments came when the seniors took the stage and talked about their team and coaches.

From the eloquent words of Tyler Sell; touching, tearful moments between Travis Lockie and his mother Rosemarie, one of the Comets popular coaches who Travis called “a true inspiration;” to Andy Alvarez’s David Letterman-like highlights list including “watching Chris cry at every banquet,” and Tiffany Oliver’s “fake” book-sized speech, it was obvious the Comets common bond was their love for the team, their coaches and what the sport has done to help them develop through the years in and out of the pool.

“This has been the best experience of my life,” said a teary-eyed Julio Simon. “I learned what family is and what it’s like to be close to everyone. This team is just great. It helped me get to where I am now. I love you all.”

Simon told Anderson, “you made me go beyond my limits.”

“The memories will last a lifetime,” said Ashley Hicks.

“I found a place, a home away from home with the Comets,” said Courtney Marx.

“I don’t want this to end,” said Tiffany Oliver. “It wasn’t exactly a cakewalk for me to get here. Now I understand why I did everything I had to do when I was younger. You get out of life what you put into it. Never lose focus of your dreams.”

Anderson also took time to give a heartfelt thanks to booster club members Paula Berti, president; Tracee Gibson, treasurer; Christina Perera, secretary; and Jamie Mlujeak, parliamentarian; office staff, coaches, city officials, webmaster Nestor Mateus and “all the special people” that have helped the Comets “become one of the most competitive swim programs.”

Banquet organizers, headed by Berti and Kristy Monti, in charge of logistics, along with office manager Diana Oliver, staged a memorable night. There was a DJ and music; and entertaining, well-choreographed slide presentation of season highlights put together by Karina and Alfredo Raimont that garnered screams from the young crowd sitting around the projection screen. In addition to candid snap shots there were inspiring messages including “through it all, we believe” and “we believe in the future.”

Among the 2010 Special Awards were:

Most Improved Swimmer: 8-and-under, Kelly CiFuentes and Leonardo Mateus; 9-10, Jenna Shultz and Kevin Porto; 11-12, Emily Neville and Gustavo Valery; 13-14, Maria Lopez and Teddy Sandoval; 15-and-over, Xavier Brown; Senior, Stephanie Freiria and Travis Lockie.

Most Dedicated Swimmer: 8-and-under, Sarah Walpole and Rafael Rodriguez; 9-10, Kelley Heron and Jorge Depassier; 11-12, Monica Rodriguez and Austin Iglesias; 13-14, Kristina Brennan and Edward Kon; 15-and-over, Katie Brennan.

Most Valuable Swimmer: 8-and-under, Jennifer Rodriguez and Jonathan Skarie; 9-10, Jessica Rodriguez and Ricardo Roche; 11-12, Andrea Melendez and Diego Rodriguez; 13-14, Leonie Davies and Blake Kelley; 15-and-over, Courtney Marx and Marc Rojas; Seniors, Tiffany Oliver and Tyler Sell.

For those interested in purchasing banquet photographs contact photographer Kathleen Armstrong at kaitshel@aol.com.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com






FORT LAUDERDALE—Biggi Lohberg of the Coral Springs masters team broke an age group national record at the YMCA Masters National Championships.

Lohberg, 44, broke the 40-44 50-yard butterfly national record in a masters career-best 26.60 seconds, bettering her seed time of 28.00. Jennifer Ridge, 41, of Danville, ILL. was second in 27.55.

The previous national record was 27.05, set by Sarasota’s Sylvia Buxton in 2008.

Lohberg also won the 100-yard butterfly in 58.01, bettering her seed time of 58.50. Her 50 split was 27.66. Ridge was second in 1:00.38.

Lohberg was also second in the 200-yard backstroke in a best time of 2:13.64 and third in the 100-yard backstroke in 1:02.61.

Lohberg, a 1988 Olympian, was competing for YMCA of Broward County. She is an ASCA Level 4 swimming coach and Director of Swim America Coral Springs. She is still an outstanding swimmer earning  several Masters titles and All-American honors.

Among other top Coral Springs finishers were:

Letti Castro, 50, won the 50-54 1,650-yard freestyle in a best time of 19:56.97; won the 500-yard freestyle in a best time 5:51.45; won the 400-yard individual medley in a best time of 5:21.63; third in the 100 butterfly in 1:10.29.

Celia Devanney, 52, won the 50-54 1,000-yard freestyle in a best time of 12:14.16; second in the 500-yard freestyle in a best time of 5:57.00; third in the 200-yard freestyle in 2:16.71; fourth in the 100-yard butterfly in 1:11.

Barbara Protzman, 55, won the 55-59 50-yard butterfly in a best time 31.69; second in the 200-yard freestyle in 2:21.98; second in the 500 freestyle in 6:31.03; second in the 400 IM in 5:59.07; second in the 200 IM in a best time of 2:42.55 and second in the 100 butterfly in 1:18.83.

Lars Ferron, 54, sixth in the 50-54 50-yard butterfly in 28.14; eighth in the 400-yard individual medley in a best time of 5:54.

Ray Venture, 61, fourth in the 100-yard butterfly in a best time of 2:32.66 and 12th in the 50 butterfly in 58.07.

The meet, being held at the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Complex, concludes Sunday from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. with timed finals. A field of 600 swimmers from YMCA clubs throughout the nation are competing.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com






The merger of the Coral Springs Swim Club and Comets Swim Team is now official.

After waiting the mandatory 120-day period, two of the most well-respected USA Swimming clubs are now the South Florida Aquatic Club and will be sponsored by Nike, Inc., the world’s largest maker of athletic shoes and apparel. 

The Florida Gold Coast’s newest club combines more than 450 swimmers and 20 employees including two world-class coaches. Michael Lohberg is the club’s head coach and Chris Anderson is the CEO.

Head age group coaches Luis Soler of the Comets and Bruno Darzi of Coral Springs will also play key roles.

The clubs’ 8-and-under age group programs will remain under the auspices of the Coral Springs Swim Club and Comets satellite programs.

The Coral Springs Swim Club as well as the Comets Swim Team will continue to exist. All 8-and-under swimmers will still be registered under their original club name. All three clubs will have their own websites.

The swimmers and coaching staff will be outfitted in the latest Nike swim fashion and gear. The Beaverton, Ore.-based company is widely recognized and according to HSBC Global Research analysts “has survived as the go-to brand during tough times and will likely continue to thrive when the economy improves.”

“Nike gives us instant credibility and they really showed us that they wanted us and wanted to be associated with this new club,” said Lohberg, a six-time Olympic coach.

“Nike is a big name, no question about that,” Lohberg said. “This goes way beyond swim suits. To be associated with a world-reknown company like Nike is an honor. It is a special way this whole thing started and it is compliment to us that they obviously recognize the potential.

“They will do a lot for our kids. I am very excited about it. It’s just not promotional.”

Anderson is also excited about the team’s affiliation with Nike.

“This is the best way to make our kids the happiest and try to make us a professional brand,” Anderson said. “The kids identify with the Nike swoosh.

“Our team will dress, act and perform professionally even at the younger age levels and Nike is on board with that. We can portray to the public that we are a professional program. This is the image we want for SOFLO.

“We have been waiting for this for a long time,” Anderson said of the merger. “It is refreshing we have our name and professional look. Now it’s time we get back to work with our coaching staff and dynamics.”

Lohberg said SOFLO will be a “test team” and have an impact on the development of Nike material used in swim suits.

“Nike is making a big push forward in swimming,” Lohberg said. “Their swimwear is gorgeous. In the very near future with our help they will have top-notch racing suits.”

2004 U.S. Olympic silver medalist Maritza Correia, the first Puerto Rican of African descent to make a U.S. Olympic team, represents Nike and  will work closely with SOFLO. 

SOFLO’s first appearance as a team will be on the Texas Senior Circuit May 22-23 at Texas A&M. The team’s first local meet is still to be determined.

“I think we have a great tradition in swimming and now we will develop something new together and maintain that tradition,” Lohberg said. “We are working together at all levels– coaching, administration and booster club levels. We will learn and benefit from each other. It will be exciting for everybody.”

Both Florida Gold Coast clubs were recently recognized among the nation’s best with excellence awards from USA Swimming’s Club Recognition Program.

Coral Springs earned the Gold Medal Club achievement award as one of the nation’s Top 27 clubs.

The Comets earned the Silver Medal Club award, ranked between 28 and 100 in the country. The prestigious awards are based on the performance achievements of the athletes.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com






MIAMI—Swimming in her first Nike Swim Miami 2010, Kelley Heron didn’t exactly know what to expect.

Still, the 10-year-old Comet was excited about venturing outside the lanes of a warm, clean pool and swimming in rough waters and wind at the Miami Marine Stadium Basin off Rickenbacker Causeway.

Early Saturday morning, Heron and 37 of her teammates were among a large field of 800 swimmers of all ages that navigated a well-marked course in dark, murky waters.

With a little improvised strategy, the Pembroke Pines Charter Central School fourth grader ended up winning her debut in the 10-and-under 800 meter swim in 13 minutes and 13 seconds.

Comet teammates Leonie Davies, 14, won the 13-14 5K title in 1:09:07 and Brittany Williford, 17, finished fifth in the girls 17-18 5K, also in 1:09.07. Both qualified to represent the Florida Gold Coast All-Stars in the June 12-13 Fort Myers Open Water Festival off Fort Myers beach.

For Davies and Williford, it’s the continuation of success in open water swimming; for Heron it’s just the beginning.

“It was confusing and scary at first, it was dark under the water and you couldn’t really see where you were going, the buoys were everywhere,” Heron said. “I don’t know if there were any fish in the water because I couldn’t see.”

Once Heron got her bearings in the water, she started kicking hard and moved ahead of the pack. Since she swims distance events including the 500 in the pool, Heron knew all about strategy.

“At first I was behind everyone,” Heron said. “The only way to get in front of them was to go around them.

“I really liked this race, I didn’t expect to win it because it was my first time,” Heron said. “I guess the salt water makes you go faster. I want to do this again.”

Heron started swimming four years ago because it was a “cool” sport in more ways than one. Recently in the pool, she qualified in all of her events for the FGC All-Star team.

“I liked swimming because unlike other sports like soccer and football where you get hot and sweat, swimming was in the water and kept me cool,” Heron said. “You really sweat a lot in soccer. You don’t get hot in swimming.”

For the British-born teenager Davies, 13, her first victory in the 5K girls race added to a successful season that now includes Florida Gold Coast All-Star honors in both the pool and open water.

It was Davies’ third open water appearance and first 5K (3.1 miles). Last year she won the girls’ 11-12 mile.

“It was definitely longer,” Davies said. “I had more time to think about my swim. I just tried to keep looking ahead and catching up to people ahead of me.”

The West Broward freshman said she enjoys both pool and open water.

“I like them both for different reasons,” Davies said. “Open water is definitely different. It’s more natural and there are waves. In a sense, the pool is easier.”

Davies said conditions were “a little tough” because of the wind but added “it was a pretty good start. I usually try to stay in front so I don’t get hit.

“I am really excited about making the all-star team,” Davies said. “It’s going to be fun. I made the team with a lot of my friends.”

Williford, 17, a junior at St. Thomas Aquinas, has competed in several open water swims including 5K and 10K open water nationals. She was happy to finish among the Top 6 and qualify for the June 12 Florida All-Star meet.

“I was pretty familiar with the course today and it helped,” Williford said. “Half the course was pretty hard, you had to navigate through the waters. It was a little different from the pool. It’s a nice change.”

Williford said one of the highlights was seeing a school of dolphins with the Miami skyline as a backdrop.

“It was nice to see a few dolphins at the end of the race,” Williford said. “I was happy with my finish. My goal was between 1:05 and 1:10 and I did 1:09.”

Complete results of the 800, mile, 5K and 10K will be posted found at multirace.com and the 2010 Nike Swim Miami websites.

The Comets returned to their home pool Saturday afternoon to celebrate April Pool’s Day with water slides and fun activities with family and friends.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com.






Thirty-seven Comet swimmers will have a change of scenery when they compete Saturday in the Nike Swim Miami 2010.

From the youngest, Samuel Quintero at age 9 to the oldest, Miles Malmborg at 49, the Comets move from the pool into the Miami Marine Stadium Basin off Rickenbacker Causeway.

Most of the Comets will compete in the 5K (3.1 miles). Johnny Dodero, 15, is set to compete in the 10K (6.2 miles).

Other distances offered in the Florida Gold Coast-sanctioned event are the mile and 800 meters.

“Our team definitely does a lot of different things to keep it fun and interesting,” said Comets coach Chris Anderson. “I like it. It makes the kids hang tough. It’s a little different and it keeps them interested in the sport of aquatics.”

The Comets will be one of the busiest teams this weekend.

In addition to the Nike Swim Miami 2010, the team will host April Pool’s Day on Saturday with several fun activities scheduled.

The event will showcase the City of Pembroke Pines Academic Village Pool and Training Center’s numerous renovations and upgrades. There will also be a pool party, dunk tank, barbecue and several other planned activities for the whole family. Every swimmer is encouraged to bring a friend.

On Sunday, the Comets will hold their annual banquet to honor swimmers, coaches, parents, volunteers and other supporters at the Signature Grand in Davie, 5-9 p.m.

“This is half of what we normally send to the Nike Swim,” Anderson said. “We have a lot going on this weekend.”

The Nike Swim Miami 2010, one of the world’s largest open water events, will use a similar course as the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games open water event. With downtown Miami as a backdrop, the 10K swim is four loops of a 2,500-meter course. The 5K swim features two loops. The one mile and 800-meter races are one loop.

Thirty-six swimmers from the Nike Swim Miami 2010 will be selected to an All-Star team that will travel to Fort Myers this summer. Other swimmers will shoot for open water nationals that same weekend or the Swim Around Key West.

“Race organizers do such a great job with this event,” Anderson said. “They make it interesting for the kids. It’s not just an open water event. It has a flair with vendors, Olympians, announcer on the beach. It makes for a nice day for the kids. It’s a cool ambience, the kids are on the beach, hanging out with friends.

“It is an entirely different environment from the pool swimming and it’s easier for the kids to socialize in these open water settings. It also gives our swimmers a chance to get a taste of what open water swimming is about. It is a little different but our kids are really into it.”

Poliana Okimoto, a Brazilian long distance swimmer and 2008 Olympian, will compete among the elite field. She was seventh in the women’s 10K race in Beijing. Others in the field are ex-Cuban national team swimmer Boris Fernandez, training for his second attempt at the English Channel; three-time Olympian Gary Hall Sr.; and Alabama All-American and masters record holder Ricardo Valdivia.

All participants will get a finisher Nike Swim Miami race patch. The top three finishers in each age group will receive a die cut Nike Swim Miami medal. The top three overall finishers will receive a unique bobble head. The overall winner of every race will be awarded a Nike Swim Miami backpack.

Pre-race registration is Friday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. at the Miami Rowing Club in the Swim Gym office trailer. On Saturday, swimmer registration opens 6:45 a.m. The sponsor expo is 7 a.m.-2 p.m. The race starting times are: 8 a.m. for 800 meters 10-and-under; 8:30 a.m. mile; 9:55 a.m. 10K; 10 a.m. 5K and 1 p.m. K-9 Krawl. The award ceremony will be held after the results are posted.

In addition to Dodero, Quintero and Malmborg, other Comets participating in the Nike Swim Miami 2010 are:

10-year-olds: Kelley Heron, Matthew Menocal.

11-year-olds: Alani Carrasco, Jack Davies, Alfredo Mesa Jr., Stephanie Mlujeak, Carlos Rodriguez, Samantha Stinemire.

12-year-olds: Jessica Cordero, Andres Menchaca, Gustavo Valery, Cristina Villegas, John Walpole.

13-year-olds: Caroline Cabeza, Nicole Cordoba, Leonie Davies, Edward Kon, Tomas Legaspi.

14-year-olds: Roger Capote, Blake Kelley, Javier Menchaca.

15-year-olds: Xavier Brown, Meris Drew, Nicholas Manning, Chloe Sell, Arturo Valery, Cynthia Walpole.

16-year-olds: Nicolle Garcia.

17-year-olds: Carlo Morante, Gabriel Pena, Brittany Williford.

18-year-olds: Courtney Marx, Bianca Muniz.

46-year-old: Leticia Walpole.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com






CORAL SPRINGS—Jillian Alexander of the Coral Springs Swim Club had a game plan going into the National Age Group Swimming Association (NASA) Showcase Classic.

The Coral Springs Charter School seventh grader wanted to drop times in all six events she entered.

On Saturday, the 12-year-old accomplished just that.

On the final day of the five-day meet, Alexander posted career-best times in her final two events, the 12-year-olds 100-yard breaststroke and 100-yard individual medley.

She finished third in the 100 breaststroke in 1:11.38 and third in the 100 IM in 1:05.59. Alexander also swam 29.89 in the 50-yard butterfly morning prelims.

“I felt really good and I am happy with all my swims,” Alexander said.

“This was my big meet for the season and I swam all my best times the whole week. I thought I would drop my times but I didn’t think I would drop this much. I was happiest with my 200 breaststroke. Coach Bruno has helped me a lot especially with my stroke.

“Usually, I am nervous before my meets, but this was a lot of fun. Everyone did really good.”

Alexander started swimming at age 3 at the urging of her parents after the family moved to Florida. She also plays soccer but now that the soccer season is over with she said she was focusing on swimming.

Other Coral Springs finishers were:

Marco Hosfeld, 14, second, 14-year-olds 100-yard breaststroke, 1:05.72 (1:08.06 prelims).

Kayla Moodie, 13, third, 13-year-olds 100-yard breaststroke, 1:10.79 (1:13.06 prelims).

Arie Van Der Vlist, 11, 11-year-olds 50-yard freestyle, 28.76 (28.96 prelims).

Eden Cooke, 10, fourth, 10-year-olds 50-yard freestyle, 27.93 (28.65 prelims).

Bogdan Cioanta, 14, fourth, 14-year-olds 50-yard freestyle, 23.13 (23.05 prelims).

Bogdan Cioanta, 14, fifth, 14-year-olds 100-yard breaststroke, 1:06.38 (1:07.61 prelims).

Catharine Cooper, 10, sixth, 10-year-olds 50-yard freestyle, 28.30 (28.82 prelims).

Kayla Moodie, 13, sixth, 13-year-olds 50-yard butterfly, 29.44 (30.07 prelims).

Audrey Mason, 11, seventh, 11-year-olds 100-yard breaststroke, 1:16.33 (1:18.16 prelims) and eighth, 11-year-olds 50-yard freestyle, 28.47 (28.32 prelims).

Rebecca Sadler, 12, ninth, 12-year-olds 100-yard breaststroke, 1:18.24.

Lindsey Sauer, 12, 11th, 12-year-olds 100-yard breaststroke, 1:19.88.

August Charni, 13, 12th, 13-year-olds 50-yard freestyle, 25.19.

Haley Wright, 13, 14th, 13-year-olds 50-yard butterfly, 31.59.

Rebecca Wilkerson, 12, 15th, 12-year-olds 100-yard breaststroke, 1:22.47.

Kayla Moodie, 13, 19th, 13-year-olds 50-yard freestyle, 27.94.

Coral Springs age group coach Bruno Darzi was pleased with his team’s week-long performance.

“I think the fact we had the JOs meet first and the chance to correct a few things helped them in this meet,” Darzi said.

“Our JO results were pretty good, too, and after Tyla (Martin) was able to perform so well at CARIFTA, I knew our other swimmers would do well, too, because they had the same preparation. I think we did the right things.”

For the younger swimmers, it was not only their biggest meet, but their first national meet.

“Some of them realized how important and big it was,” Darzi said. “They all had fun with it. I am happy with everything they did and have no regrets what we did all season. I am happy with the results.”

Even though his swimmers want to get right back in the water on Monday, Darzi told them after the meet they will have a mandatory week off before returning to training.

“Some of them want to swim but I told them it was mandatory,” Darzi said. “The other swimmers who trained just for JOs and Division IIs will be back training on Monday.”

The five-day national meet ended with New England-based Bluefish Swim Club capturing the combined team title with 2,100 points. Quest Swimming was second (1,860) and Badger Swim Club was third (1,621).

With 16 swimmers among the field of 200 swimmers, mostly from out-of-state, Coral Springs Swim Club, swimming unattached, was ninth with 621 points, the only Florida team in the Top 10.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com