Tyla Martin is just scratching the surface as a competitive swimmer with the South Florida Aquatic Club.

At 31, SOFLO age group coach Bruno Darzi is one of the nation’s youngest ASCA Level 5 certified coaches and still learning about the sport he has dedicated his life to.

For both swimmer and coach, it was the opportunity of a lifetime to attend the invitation-only USA Swimming Southern Zone Select Camp in Louisville, Ky. last week.

Martin, 12, was the youngest swimmer invited to attend the educational camp for some of the nation’s most promising swimmers.

Darzi was selected as a member of the camp’s coaching staff. It was his second USA Swimming camp. Last year he and U.S. national junior team member Lindsey McKnight were invited to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

In a city known for its horse racing industry, University of Louisville swim coach Arthur Albiero hosted thoroughbreds of another kind at his college’s natatorium.

“A camp like this absolutely helps,” said Darzi of the four-day camp. “It has been a tremendous experience. I had a great time with Tyla and the rest of the kids. The coaching staff was great.”

Coaches were able to exchange coaching ideas throughout the camp.

“There is always something you can learn from other coaches,” Darzi said. “You don’t want to get stuck with same thing all the time. You want to share with other coaches and get new ideas. It gives you a different perspective of what’s going on in the country.”

The coaches arrived on Wednesday to meet and organize the camp. The next day the swimmers got in town for the first of five training sessions.

“The facilities were amazing,” Darzi said. “The camp had a little bit of everything.”

After the kids registered and went through introductions, the swimmers, ages 12-15, had their first practice on Thursday afternoon.

There were meetings covering rules and code of conduct behavior. There were presentations on post-training and post-competition recovery, nutrition and goal-setting. One of the speaker presentations featured two national junior team members including Lauren Driscoll of Fort Lauderdale Aquatics. 

The swimmers played games that helped them to get to know each other and make new friends. One of the practice sessions featured FINA testing for the kids that featured racing for time in all four strokes in 100 races and 200 individual medley.

The kids were also treated to a minor league baseball game featuring the Louisville Bats.

“The swimmers learned what it takes and they understand what needs to be done,” Darzi said.

Martin, a U.S. citizen who represented Trinidad and Tobago at the recent CARIFTA Championships in Jamaica where she was high point winner in her age group, spent time learning, watching and taking notes, Darzi said.

“I enjoyed meeting different people from all the southern states,” Martin said. “There were drills and talks about everything like nutrition, and recovering. The most fun was the test sets.

“This is going to help me improve, I learned a lot more,” said Martin, who recently moved up to Coach Michael Lohberg’s group. “It’s an advantage to have all these really good experiences. In the long run it’s going to pay off.”

The experience will also pay off for Darzi, who started coaching 11 years ago when his swimming career ended with injuries. Mentored by six-time Olympic coach Michael Lohberg, Darzi hopes one day to be a member of a national team coaching staff.

Darzi was a national level swimmer in Brazil where he swam for 17 years while growing up in Rio de Janeiro. He was one of eight national team swimmers that trained with Lohberg at the Coral Springs Aquatic Complex in the late 1990s.

“I had my time in the sport as a swimmer, I know what these kids are going through,” said Darzi, who retired from swimming in 1999 with a bad left knee and sore shoulders.

Darzi went to business school first and realized “it wasn’t for me.” When his mother told him if he did something he likes he would be successful, he knew swimming was his destiny.

“I understood what I was getting myself into,” Darzi said. “I knew I would like coaching. Michael played a big role and is a good mentor. There is still a lot for me to learn.

“It’s definitely rewarding, I know now I am following my destiny,” Darzi said. “I have no regrets with what I did. I probably would have done it differently as a swimmer if I could have. I had some crazy coaches when I was younger. I learned from their mistakes. I want my kids to have a good and different experience than I did when I was young.

“Working with young kids like Tyla is very satisfying,” Darzi said. “She was a raw swimmer when she came from the Y in Boca and was a work in progress. She helped herself a lot to get to where she is along with her parents, Michael and me. This is part of what being a coach is all about, watching young swimmers grow, develop and have fun doing it.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com






CORAL SPRINGS—For Biggi Lohberg, it was the last chance to swim best times in the 2010 short course season.

Competing in the Coral Springs Short Course Yards Last Chance To Zip It Up Masters meet Saturday at the Coral Springs Aquatic Complex, the 1988 Olympian swam best times in the 50-yard freestyle and 200-yard butterfly.

Lohberg, 44, competing for Gold Coast Masters, won the 50-yard freestyle in 25.34 seconds, the 100-yard freestyle in 55.30 and 50-yard butterfly in 27.10. She edged Michele Huyette, 41, of FINS by 1/100ths of a second to win the 50 freestyle.

Lohberg was also a member of the winning 200-yard freestyle and 200-yard medley relays.

But the most satisfying race was the 200-yard butterfly that she swam during the 200-yard freestyle race since there was no 200 butterfly event.

While it won’t count in any record book or official result, Lohberg walked away personally satisfied after swimming a best time of 2:08.28.

“I guess I looked a little odd swimming butterfly when everyone else is swimming freestyle,” Lohberg said. “I swam the 200 butterfly in St. Petersburg in 2:11 and it felt real easy. I thought I could go faster. I didn’t go to short course nationals so I wanted to swim it here. I know it won’t count but I wanted to see what I could do.”

For Lohberg, it was also the last chance to squeeze into her high-tech Blue Seventy swimsuit.

The one-day masters meet was the final opportunity to wear the neck-to-ankle suits, which revolutionized the sport but are now banned by all the major governing bodies. Masters was the last group to outlaw the suits, allowing them to be worn through the end of May.

Not surprisingly, 103 individual and 19 relay records were set at the same pool used for the 1996 Olympics during the U.S. Masters Short Course Nationals held in Atlanta last week.

FINA, the sport’s international governing body, passed stringent new limits on how much skin could be covered and what fabrics could be used. The federation was concerned the bodysuits made entirely of polyurethane materials were ruining the sport.

“The suit helps me in the fly,” Lohberg said. “It feels good in the water.

“There are different opinions out there about the suit,” Lohberg said. “I think we should be even with everybody else, just to make it more competitive. I think a lot of people swam faster at masters meets in the suit.”

Most swimmers including two-time Olympian Vlad Polyakov of SOFLO have embraced the end of the swimsuit wars which ended with an amazing 43 world records being set at the 2009 World Championships in Rome.

Because of work and family commitments, Lohberg has never been able to train for a full long course masters season and isn’t sure how many meets she will compete in the rest of the year.

With the summer coming up, she plans to be busy in her role as the SwimAmerica Program Director for SOFLO at the Coral Springs Aquatic Complex.

“I don’t know if I will compete in the summer,” Lohberg said. “We have SwimAmerica in the mornings and afternoons. We work hard in the summer months.”

Lohberg, a wife and mother of two, remains fit and competitive at a high level. She trains three days a week and still has a passion for the sport.

“I just love it,” Lohberg said. “I only swim three times a week but I still love to race and compete. I would like to stay with swimming if time allows it. It is a lot of fun. I have a great group I train and travel together with. I love being fit. I am not happy with myself when I am not fit.

“This season I changed my weight program and did free weights and it seemed to work well for the short distances and even the 200 butterfly. I am turning more into a sprinter. It’s more fun and less practice.

“If I knew then what I know now I would have been a little better when I was training for the Olympics,” said Lohberg, a national champion and record holder for Germany, who competed at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. “The training would have been different. I would have been smarter competing. But you have to keep everything in perspective.”

June will be a busy month for masters swimmers. Three events are scheduled.

On June 6, the U.S. Masters 5K (5,000 meters) or 10K (10,000 meters) Postal Event will be hosted by the Deerfield Beach masters at the Deerfield Beach Middle School Athletic Complex, 501 S.E. 6th Avenue.

The Upper Keys Summer Invitational is June 4-6 at Founders Park Pool in Islamorada.

The June Krauser Summer Splash long course meters meet is June 18-20 at the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Complex.


Keegan Boisson-Yates of the South Florida Aquatic Club continued his racing tune-up Saturday at the FLA Senior Circuit meet at the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Complex.

The 14-year-old Taravella student from Trinidad and Tobago competing in his first long course meet of the season, placed sixth in the 100-meter backstroke in 1:05.28, an SUSE cut time.

Boisson-Yates was the youngest finisher among the Top 10 swimmers. His splits were 31.79 and 33.49.

Swimming in back-to-back events, Boisson-Yates followed with a 16th-place finish in the 200-meter individual medley in 2:27.22.

Boisson-Yates is working on race strategy in preparation for the June 26-July 2 CISC (Caribbean Island Swimming Championships) Meet in Havana, Cuba, where he has qualifying times in five events.

The Memorial Day Weekend ends on Sunday at 10 a.m. with timed finals. Boisson-Yates is scheduled to compete in the 100 freestyle and 200 backstroke.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com






FORT LAUDERDALE—Keegan Boisson-Yates of the South Florida Aquatic Club is learning his lessons well.

The 14-year-old teenager from Trinidad and Tobago, competing in his first long course meet of the season, swam two career-best times on the opening night of the FLA Senior Circuit meet at the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Complex.

Boisson-Yates swam career-bests in the 200-meter freestyle and 400-meter individual medley.

The Taravella student is looking for race experience in the tune-up meet for the June 26-July 2 CISC (Caribbean Island Swimming Championships) Meet in Havana, Cuba, where he has qualifying times in five events.

On Friday night, Boisson-Yates finished 19th among a field of 77 swimmers in the 200-meter freestyle in a career-best time of 2:04.98. He was seeded 78th in a cut time of 2:13.59.

His splits were 28.56, 31.01, 32.16 and 33.25.

“It was not the time I was looking for but it was still a best time so I am not disappointed with it, it was a good race,” Boisson-Yates said. “That was the fastest I have ever gone out. After talking with Michael I know what I need to work on.”

After competing in the 100-meter butterfly (1:05.44) and with very little time between races, Boisson-Yates swam another career-best in the 400 IM. He finished tenth in 5:15.66. He was seeded 15th in a cut time of 5:21.49.

“The 100 fly was not a great race,” Boisson-Yates said. “I think because I was not fully rested I was unable to sprint it and I just felt uncomfortable.

“The IM was another best time and it was much better than I expected to do,” Boisson-Yates said. “I was tired after my first two races. I worked a lot on my technique. My training paid off.”

Boisson-Yates, who moved to South Florida with his family in January, is encouraged by his progress in five months. He is looking forward to his last day of high school on June 9th and focusing solely on swimming for the summer.

“Sometimes I feel I am getting stronger,” Boisson-Yates said. “I don’t get tired as easily in practice. Sometimes if I have a bad day it is a bit frustrating. I know I am still learning.”

Six-time Olympic coach Michael Lohberg is also pleased with the talented swimmer’s progress.

“He is learning, it is his first time swimming long course, he is still learning how to race,” Lohberg said.

“For him this was basically the beginning of racing,” Lohberg said. “He has the CISC Championships in one month. This will help him get into the long course racing mode.

“The 200 free was good,” Lohberg said. “He just didn’t have the stamina at the end to bring it home. He had a plan, tried to execute it and for the most part he held it together. The fourth lap he was running out of gas.

“The fly was not great, he knows he can do better. He set it up too slow and was too deep in the water.

“The IM was better, I was pleased with it,” Lohberg said. “This is only the second time he has raced this race. The 400 IM is something for the long term future. He is getting there. He is only 14 and picking up experience every time he races.”

On Saturday, Boisson-Yates swims the 200 IM and 100 backstroke and Sunday the 100 freestyle and 200 backstroke.

The Memorial Day Weekend continues on Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday at 10 a.m. All sessions are timed finals.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com






With her competitive racing days behind her, Maritza Correia McClendon wants to make a difference in the sport that changed her life.

The first black woman ever to make a U.S. Olympic swim team, break a world record and hold American records, has become a role model for future generations of swimmers.

Now 28 and newly married in March, Correia works for Nike Swim in several roles including Grassroots Field Representative, where she is able to work with youth swimmers and club teams including the new South Florida Aquatic Club.

“I am excited for the South Florida Aquatic Club,” Correia said. “They want to outfit the kids head-to-toe. I think they have a great plan. I am very excited to be working with them and to see where it goes.”

The Tampa-based Olympian oversees a large territory for Nike Swim including Canada and Puerto Rico and is a member of the Swim Champions Fitter & Faster Tour that hosted a clinic Saturday in Palm Beach Gardens.

After three hours of working with kids and parents, Correia took time to reflect on her career, past, present and future.

“I am still in swimming because of the kids,” Correia said. “I actually don’t have any desire to train and practice or anything like that. I don’t miss competition too often. I think when I go to nationals as a rep I miss it because I am not going to make the travelling team and go to all those cool places.

“I think going to clinics like this and seeing the kids’ excitement gets me motivated to get back in the water with them,” Correia said. “I don’t train for the clinics. My endurance isn’t there anymore but I do enjoy getting in the water with kids.”

Not so long ago Correia was a kid herself growing up in the sport in San Juan, Puerto Rico where she was born.

At age 7, she was diagnosed with severe scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine. Doctors said swimming lessons would help treat the condition so her parents got her on a summer league swim team.

“It just kind of all started from there and I ended up liking it a lot more than I ever expected,” Correia said. “I stayed with it and got better and better.”

Correia was a natural in the water and soon was dominating the sport at every level. She was a six-time Florida high school state champion in five different events. She was a member of the 1997 U.S. national junior team that competed in Sweden and 1999 U.S. short course world championship team that competed in Hong Kong.

She earned a scholarship to the University of Georgia where she was the first and still is the only swimmer in the Southeastern Conference to win an SEC title in all freestyle events. She was a 27-time All-American and 11-time NCAA champion.

In 2004, Correia, whose parents are from Guyana and educated in England, became the first black female swimmer to make a U.S. Olympic team. She won a silver medal as a member of the 400-meter freestyle relay team. A year later, she won four gold medals at the 2005 World University Games in Turkey. She also won two gold medals at the Pan American Games and three medals at World Championships.

“I am very proud of myself for what I accomplished, I wish I could have done a little bit more as far as being more in the limelight, doing more clinics and appearances, I could have impacted more people,” said Correia, whose last meet was in December 2007. “I swam for 20 years and I ended up going to every single meet possible as a swimmer.”

During her competitive years, the Tampa-based swimmer trained alongside Olympian Brooke Bennett with Olympic coach Peter Banks and the Brandon Blue Wave at the Brandon Sports and Aquatic Center. She trained six days a week, 5 ½ hours, 14,000 meters a day.

She and Bennett briefly trained at Broward Aquatics at the Davie Pine Island Aquatic Center when Banks was hired as a coach. Banks later returned to Tampa.

Correia relishes being a role model for young swimmers and student-athletes. She plays a big role in minority swimming and getting more inner city kids involved in the sport. She is active with the annual National Black Heritage Meet scheduled May 29-30 at the Triangle Aquatic Center in Raleigh, N.C. where she will hold two clinics on Friday and Saturday. She was also involved with the Black History Meet in Washington, D.C. in February.

“I think going to meets like that makes an impact,” Correia said.

Correia said remaining positive around swimmers is the key.

“I think turning any negative situation into something positive and having fun with it is the best advice I can give,” Correia said. “So many of these kids get discouraged by bad times or have a swim meet or two that they don’t do that great. They don’t want to come to practice or it’s too hard.

“I always just say sometimes you do need a breather here and there. Take a practice off, come back, be refreshed. It might be a positive for them to get away for a day and do something different, then come back, be refreshed and have a great practice.

“I always tell them you go to a swim meet and might have a bad swim, figure out what it was that made it that—bad turn, bad start, bad finish. I am queen of bad finishes. I didn’t make the Olympic team in the 50 free in 2004 because of a bad finish. I think paying attention to little things like that, turning that negative situation into something positive can make a big difference.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com






FORT LAUDERDALE—Keegan Boisson-Yates will be looking for race experience when he competes in the FLA Senior Circuit swim meet Friday through Sunday at the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Complex.

Boisson-Yates, 14, coming off the CARIFTA Swimming Championships where he represented Trinidad and Tobago in the National Stadium Pool in Kingston, Jamaica, is tuning up for this summer’s bigger meets.

On Friday, Boisson-Yates will compete in the 200 freestyle, 100 butterfly and 400 individual medley. On Saturday, he swims the 200 IM and 100 backstroke and Sunday the 100 freestyle and 200 backstroke.

“He is still young and inexperienced, he needs to race,” said SOFLO coach Michael Lohberg. “This is more of a preparation meet for the summer.”

Boisson-Yates, a Taravella student, had a solid showing in his fourth appearance at the Caribbean’s annual age group championships. At CARIFTA, Keegan Boisson-Yates, won three relay gold medals and one individual silver and three bronze medals.

Boisson-Yates has been swimming for six years. At 13, he became one of the best swimmers in his age group for Trinidad and Tobago. His family moved to South Florida in January. He is the only SOFLO swimmer competing in the three-day meet.

The Memorial Day Weekend meet begins Friday at 5:30 p.m. and continues Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday at 10 a.m. All sessions are timed finals.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com






PARKLAND—On a night full of memories for swimmers, parents, coaches and volunteers at the annual Coral Springs Swim Club banquet, the evening couldn’t have ended more perfectly.

The first-of-its-kind Chinese Auction, featuring thousands of dollars worth of prizes from local sponsors and contributors, was a smashing success particularly for six-time Olympic coach Michael Lohberg and his wife and Swim America coach Biggi Lohberg.

The pair won the final raffle basket of the night, a trip to New York and VIP tickets to see the popular Live With Regis and Kelly morning talk show.

After two-time Olympian Vlad Polyakov read off the winning raffle numbers, Lohberg stood up, punched the air with his fist and let out a “whoop” yell.

That “priceless” moment came minutes after age group coach Bruno Darzi winning the “Manly Man” basket that featured a fedora hat and designer sunglasses and South Florida Aquatic Club CEO and coach Chris Anderson winning the “How To Look Good Naked” basket.

Two other happy raffle basket winners were Pam Szakacs and her 8-year-old daughter Lydia, a second grader who has been swimming for a year. Szakacs’ husband bought only one raffle ticket but that’s all they needed when their numbers were called to come up and collect the lunch with five-time Olympian Dara Torres.

“I want to see her medals,” Lydia said. “This is really exciting,” said her mother. “My husband bought one ticket and we ended up winning. It really is wonderful.”

The raffle, a fundraiser for the Booster Club, was just part of an energetic evening at the Catering Hall at Temple Kol Tikvah, the third year the event has been held at the glitzy venue.

A record turnout of 330 guests enjoyed a fun-filled night of touching speeches by Lohberg, Darzi, other coaches and Booster Club president Barbara Morris. They pointed out how dedicated and hard-working the swimmers were throughout the season and how tireless and driven the Executive Board and volunteers were during the club’s activities including swim meets, social activities and the very special banquet.

“It was another fantastic year,” Morris said. “We are a tight group and it is a wonderful feeling to be the President of an organization like this.

“This banquet was organized much in the same fashion that our swim meets are,” Morris said. “With a large diverse group of people, performing numerous tasks all pulling together with the common goal of creating a fabulous event for our swimmers.”

It was also a historical night for the Coral Springs Swim Club staging its last banquet as CSSC. The club recently merged with the Comets Swim Team to become the Nike-sponsored South Florida Aquatic Club.

With so many swimmers, coaches, parents, volunteers and friends, the club will definitely need a bigger banquet hall.

Morris introduced SOFLO CEO and coach Chris Anderson calling him “a young, brilliant rising star in swimming” and also praised the tireless efforts of administrative assistant Tina Proctor.

It was also a tearful send-off for age group coach Nicole Bronson, who recently wed and is off with her recently NFL-drafted quarterback husband to Tennessee where he will play for the Titans.

Of course, the main focus of the night was all about the swimmers from the young age groupers to the national team.

The club’s twelve seniors were honored as they prepare to go off and make their mark in college. There were beautiful floral bouquets and tiaras for the girls and felt top hats with flames for the boys, awards and Grad bags.

In a festive atmosphere and well-planned evening down to the teal blue dolphin and silver stars centerpieces, the coaching staff took turns honoring their groups with Coaches Awards.

One of the highlights of the evening was U.S. national junior team member Lindsey McKnight and Marco Camargo being named Female and Male Swimmers of the Year.

The Coaches Awards recipients were: (National) Brandon Goldman and Arlene Semeco; (Senior 1) Kristina Nork and Justin Grigull (Senior 2) Brian Arnaud and Sofia Gonella; (Blue) Tyla Martin and Morgan Nixon; (White) Lindsey Kaufman and Gus Cohn; (Gold) Aaron Diener and Katalina Gomez; (Green) Delaney Biro and Hannah Virgin; and (Red) Alexander Goldfarb and Zoe Bonner.

Banquet organizers, headed by Morris, staged a most memorable night. There was music and entertaining DJ that had the kids and parents dancing throughout the night and playing fun games; and slide presentation of season highlights put together by Ruxandra Cionta.

It was a proud moment when Morris announced that it is the 18th year that 100 percent of the club’s seniors graduated and are going off to college to swim and pursue degrees.

“This is amazing what these kids accomplish,” said Morris, who asked the seniors’ parents to stand up and were honored with a round of applause. “You don’t see this everywhere.”

Lohberg, who has battled aplastic anemia the past two years and returned to the coaching deck, touched the hearts of everyone in the room when he spoke.

“The last two years has taught me a lot about myself and what a fantastic swim club this is and what a privilege it is to be a part of,” Lohberg said. “My family, my two kids, friends, parents and swimmers stepped up when I really needed it and I can’t say enough about you. I really do appreciate what you have done for me.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com






Evelyn Salama returned home from her first U.S. Masters Short Course National Championships motivated more than ever.

After training for only two years with masters coach Rose Lockie, the 36-year-old mother of two from Pembroke Pines swam five career-best times in five timed final events during the national meet at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center in Atlanta.

The South Florida Aquatic Club masters swimmer returned to practice Monday morning already thinking about the Aug. 9-12 U.S. Masters Long Course Nationals in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“I am kind of unhappy that it’s over,” Salama said Monday afternoon while picking up her two children at swim lessons at the same Academic Village Pool and Training Center that she trains at.

“I missed my family and it’s great to be back, but I didn’t want the meet to end,” Salama said. “I got the fever now. I have been bitten by the bug. I am looking at masters nationals in Puerto Rico in August.”

After an overwhelming first day where she still managed to swim a best time on Friday, Salama got into a groove during the weekend and swam four more career-bests.

On Friday she swam a career-best 36.75 seconds to finish 15th in the 35-39 division of the 50-yard breaststroke. Her previous best was 37.84.

On Saturday she finished 16th in the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:21.11 bettering her seed time of 1:22.02 and swam 1:07.48 to finish 21st in the 100-yard freestyle bettering her previous best of 1:08.82.

On Sunday, before she and Lockie caught a flight home, she had a huge drop in the 100-yard individual medley in 1:14.10 to place 23rd. Her previous best was 1:19.30. She also swam the splash-and-dash 50-yard freestyle in 29.48 to finish 21st . Her previous best was 30.71.

“It was a mind blowing experience not only swimming and everything we accomplished but everything we saw,” Salama said.

“We watched a 52-year-old blind man get up on the blocks and swim the 100 IM. Someone at the end of his lane had a stick with a tennis ball to tap him as he approached the wall so he knew when to turn. That was so awesome, the whole place stood up when he finished. Anytime I think I can’t do this or anything else in my life, I am going to think about him.”

Salama said her national debut is slowly sinking in although she was disappointed over not placing in the Top 10 and bringing home a medal.

“I think the words best times are self-explanatory but I am still having trouble processing that it was a big deal mainly because of my naivete,” Salama said. “I have gotten some great support from people telling me I did well. Rose keeps telling me over and over again swimming best times at nationals is great.

“I am glad my hard work paid off,” Salama said. “It’s still pretty unbelievable to me. I have never been more disciplined for anything like I was preparing for this meet. I took it very seriously.”

Salama and Lockie haven’t had a chance to talk about her next goal.

“I have been back less than 24 hours,” Salama said with a laugh. “I did go to practice and puked twice. Rose knows what she is doing. I am going to shut my mouth and take her advice.”

When she returned home late Sunday, Salama was greeted by little signs her children, Gustavo, 7, and Eliana, 6, made and posted in the family room.

“They were great, they read ‘We Love You, First Place,’” Salama said. “I was first in my heat but that didn’t mean I won the event which is something I learned as well. But I am going to let them go with that.”

In more masters nationals action, Olympic gold medalist Cullen Jones, 26, of SwimMAC swam an impressive 19.14 in the 50-yard freestyle to win the 25-29 title and break Sabir Muhammad’s 2004 mark of 19.44.

“What a weekend,” Jones said on Twitter. “Went to Masters Nationals and found a new appreciation for the love of swimming. Went 19.1, finally got my stroke together.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com





Age: 18

High school: Douglas

College: Iona (N.Y.) College


When he was little, Justin Grigull would always tag along with his older brother Rory to watch him swim with his Coral Springs Swim Club teammates at the Coral Springs Aquatic Complex.

It looked like fun so Grigull, a tennis and soccer player, decided to try it.

“I was always at the pool with him so I decided to see what it was like,” Grigull said. “I liked it. I got along with the coaches and it was fun.

“I was good when I started out, then had a few down years and picked it back up. It helped having my brother there. He always encouraged me. I always wanted to follow in his footsteps.”

Rory Grigull is 20 and swims at South Carolina. He is home for the summer to train at Coral Springs. Justin is excited about swimming at college.

“We finally get to be even,” Grigull said. “Maybe in college I will get to race him. It will be fun competing with him. We haven’t raced head-to-head but our times are getting close. I keep comparing them.”

Justin admits his older brother is “better than me.

“He pushed me a lot,” Grigull said. “I wouldn’t be where I am without him.”

Grigull has been swimming for 10 years. He swims the 50, 100, 200 and 500 freestyle events.

“Swimming helped me a lot,” Grigull said. “It made me realize a lot of things about myself that I didn’t know. It really worked out for the best me choosing swimming. I got the opportunity to swim in college. I was always hoping for it and I worked towards it the whole time.”

Morning workouts took a little getting used to, Grigull admits.

“Thankfully I didn’t start those until I got older,” he said with a laugh. “I got used to it pretty fast.”

Grigull qualified for the state high school meet four consecutive years.

His freshman and sophomore year Douglas won the team title. His junior year he won an individual state title as a member of the 400-yard freestyle relay. His best individual state finish was fourth in the 100 freestyle.

“I think there are always going to be those hard workouts where you have a low moment,” Grigull said. “Right before my last summer I hurt my shoulder. I was wondering what I was going to do and whether college coaches would still talk with me.

“There was no way I was going to quit. I stuck with it and I am glad I did. College coaches did talk with me. It was cool being recruited and nice knowing that people want you.”

Grigull plans to major in business administration in college.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com






PEMBROKE PINES—Elle Weberg was happy to be back in the pool racing again.

In her first race since the June 29-July 6 2008 U.S. Olympic trials in Omaha, Neb., the 6-foot tall breaststroker competing for the South Florida Aquatic Club won two events Saturday at the Florida Gold Coast Open Invitational at the Academic Village Pool.

Weberg, 25, won the 200-meter breaststroke in 2 minutes, 37.68 seconds and 50-meter breaststroke in 33.86. She also competed on one of SOFLO’s eight 200-meter medley relay teams.

For Weberg, it was the first step toward restoking her competitive fires for another run at the Olympics.

“I never lost my love for swimming, I am so fired up now,” Weberg said. “Swimming is now my main concern in life and it’s never been my main concern so this is really a cool feeling. I feel like I can really appreciate it now that I am 25. It took me this long.”

Weberg graduated from Florida Atlantic University in 2008. She was a member of the swim team and competed through 2007. She was the Outstanding Female Athlete of the Year in 2006 and 2007 and four-time All-American.

She competed at the 2007 World University Games where she finished second in the 400-meter medley relay, fifth in the 50-meter breaststroke and sixth in both the 100 and 200 breaststroke events.

The U.S. national team member, ranked as high as 22 in the world in the 200 breaststroke, took time off after college to figure out how she could continue swimming and support herself while training.

The Bloomington, Minn.-born soccer player-turned-swimmer has been swimming since she was 9. She never lost her passion for the sport. She just needed time to organize her life.

“It was really about finances,” Weberg said. “I had to figure out how I could devote myself to swimming and it could be my full-time job without having another full-time job and just making it work.”

After some trials and tribulations, Weberg said she has figured it out and has found her way back to the pool.

She has been somewhat of a gypsy, living in five different locations in the last four months including a friend’s couch. She found a job at the Sailfish Club in Palm Beach, where she started a small team and gives private swim lessons and plans to move to Coral Springs next month.

“They are very flexible with my schedule so yes I think I have finally made it work,” Weberg said.

With collegiate swimming and studies behind her, Weberg can focus solely on training full-time.

“Definitely, definitely, definitely I am happy now,” Weberg said. “I was really not happy. I feel like I have never been part of a team that has athletes that can push me. Being on SOFLO now with eight-plus Olympians is huge.

“Vlad Polyakov is the most inspiring person I feel like I have ever been around. It’s really great training with him. Every day he is so intense and so professional. It’s awesome to be around him.”

Polyakov, a two-time Olympian, also won the 200-meter breaststroke by more than a half pool’s length in 2:18.59 and 50-meter breaststroke in 29.47.

SOFLO coach Michael Lohberg has already picked apart and honed Weberg’s stroke.

“Michael has really pulled apart my stroke and a lot of what I am doing,” Weberg said. “I started there the end of January and it was really spotty in the beginning. For a month and a half I felt like crap and now I am putting everything together.

“It’s just starting to come together and I am just starting to feel good. I am getting back into shape. I could have taken it out a little faster but it’s my first swim back.”

Weberg feels she has only scratched the surface at the elite level. She took bronze medals in the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke at the 2007 Short Course National Championships.

“I didn’t even know what a national team was until I made it,” she said. “I trained alone leading up to trials and I wasn’t happy about trials because I swam the same time that I did the year before. I know I am a much faster swimmer. I have a lot of untapped potential. I am so excited about the future.”

Weberg’s wins were among 32 first place finishes for the newly-formed SOFLO team, also excited about the future.

SOFLO had 13 individual and relay winners in the 12-and-under morning session and 19 in the afternoon 13-and-over session.

Individual winners in the morning session were: Jessica Rodriguez, 11; Federico Maeso, 10; Tyla Martin, 12 (three wins); Diego Rodriguez, 12; Kelley Heron, 10 (two wins); Alvena Walpole, 9; Jorge Depassier, 10; and Andres Menchaca, 12. SOFLO also won both 12-and-under 200-meter medley relays.

In addition to Weberg and Polyakov, the afternoon session individual champions were: Maria Lopez, 14 (two wins); Kayla Moodie, 13; Dylan Sell, 13; Lindsey McKnight, 16 (two wins); Leo Andara, 23; Bogdan Cioanta, 14; Amber Hunter, 14; Stefan Lackner, 24; Arlene Semeco, 26; Keegan Boisson-Yates, 14; and Leonie Davies, 13. SOFLO won both 13-and-over 200-meter medley relays.

The three-day meet concludes Sunday with two sessions. The 12-and-under swimmers begin competition at 8:30 a.m. and 13-and-over swimmers begin at 1 p.m.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com






PEMBROKE PINES—With encouragement from his coaches and teammates, C.J. Kopecki was determined to finish Saturday’s Swim-A-Thon at the Academic Village Pool and Training Center.

After catching his breath, the 10-year-old climbed out of the pool with the biggest smile on his face after completing the 200-lap fundraising event along with 72 of his teammates.

The goal was to finish 200 laps (5,000 yards) or two hours of swimming. Twenty lanes were used with three to five swimmers per lane including masters.

Most of the senior swimmers including Florida State-bound Tiffany Oliver and Tyler Sell finished first and stayed around to cheer on the younger swimmers while eating barbecued hot dogs and hamburgers cooked by South Florida Aquatic Club CEO and coach Chris Anderson.

“Four more to go,” shouted Kopecki’s age group coach Luis Soler at one end of his lane while family members clapped for him at the other end of his lane.

“Two more to go,” Soler continued.

“When you start seeing those numbers, that countdown is always nice,” Soler said.

Kopecki said he thought he would only be able to complete 100 laps. Afterall, he only started swimming in September.

What kept the fourth grader going?

“I was trying to finish 200 laps,” Kopecki said. “This was the first time I did a swim-a-thon. It was getting hard towards the end but it was fun. This is the longest I have done in swimming.

“I heard my coach yelling and people clapping for me. I feel pretty good. I knew it was going to be long. It felt good when I finished. I wanted to finish no matter what.”

Soler was impressed with Kopecki’s determination.

“This tells me he doesn’t quit, he’s not a quitter obviously,” Soler said. “I think that’s one of the biggest things as a coach you look forward to. You look for those kids that just keep on going. They ignore what’s going on around them and keep going until they get the job done.

“It’s nice to see especially from a kid who has been in this sport such a short amount of time.”

Soler emphasized the event, started by the Comets and expected to be continued by SOFLO (the merger of the Comets and Coral Springs Swim Club), isn’t about winning or losing.

“The whole thing is challenging, no matter how you look at it, 5,000 yards is challenging in itself,” Soler said. “It’s a mental thing. Just like C.J. said he only thought about doing 100 laps so he was already lowballing it. But for him to be in the middle of it and go ‘you know what, I can get this done, I think I am going to do it, let’s just keep on going and see how far I can go.’”

The swim-a-thon was an opportunity for the entire team to spend time together.

“It was nice for our kids who weren’t the same age to mingle and go in with the same goal which was either 100 or 200 laps,” Soler said. “I really liked the idea of everybody getting in the water at the same time. Everybody might not finish at the same time but they all did it as a unit.”

Most of them were just glad to finish particularly the older kids who had dryland training in the morning including a truck-pushing session in the parking lot.

Rachel Ling, 15, a breaststroker for Mast Academy, said she enjoyed the swim-a-thon. “I liked it because I was with my friends and it’s not like we have to sprint or anything. We just had to get it done. It feels good when it’s over.”

British teenager Leonie Davies, one of the team’s most versatile and talented swimmers, loves distance and didn’t mind the non-stop workout.

“This was fun, it was more of the idea of doing it for the team and raising money,” Davies said. “I tried to pace with people and keep up with people that I usually can’t keep up with in practice. It was fun.”

Oliver was bittersweet thinking it may have been her last swim-a-thon with her team. She’s off to FSU this fall.

“I have done four or five of these,” Oliver said. “I don’t know what I am going to do next summer so this may be my last one. This was nice because it was a team thing.

“It was less than a normal workout but doing it consecutively with stopping only a few seconds it was pretty hard,” Oliver said.

Anderson said he will not know how much the team raised until July 22. Five percent of the proceeds go to USA Swimming, the sport’s governing body. The remainder benefits the team’s booster club.

The goal was for each swim family to raise $150 with the first $100 going towards their booster club membership fee. The steady income into the booster club will enable the team “to do more dynamic things,” Anderson said, including team travel, team banquet and monthly social activities.

It was the team’s eighth annual swim-a-thon.

“It’s fun,” Anderson said. “We have raised anywhere from $4,000 when we were smaller to $14,500 two years ago. “We are trying to give back to our customers and help support our booster club and membership.”

The next eight-year plan for the swim-a-thon is to be held every other year. “We are going to search to find something very creative to do on the opposite years,” Anderson said.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com