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




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 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