WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
Gearing up for a full summer of meets, the South Florida Aquatic Club will make its national debut this weekend.
A mix of young, talented and experienced swimmers will compete at the Texas Senior Circuit Long Course Meet Friday through Sunday in College Station, Tex.
The swimmers will get the chance to swim indoors at the Texas A&M Student Recreation Center Natatorium.
The venue has hosted several high level meets including the Women’s and Men’s NCAA Championships, Big 12 Championships and U.S. Open and World Cups in addition to the Texas Senior Circuit Swimming Series.
“It is the first meet we have together at the national level,” said national team coach Michael Lohberg, referring to the merger of Coral Springs Swim Club and Comets Swim Team into the Nike-sponsored South Florida Aquatic Club (SOFLO).
Lohberg and five swimmers including two-time Olympian Vlad Polyakov recently returned from Europe where SOFLO made its international debut at the Mare Nostrum Tour.
“For most of the kids this is a meet building up to the summer,” Lohberg said. “There are swimmers who have high ambitions like nationals in Canada. Other kids are trying to make senior national cuts for the U.S. For most, it is part of their preparation for the end of July and Senior Championships.”
The meet is well-liked by SOFLO coaches for its atmosphere and competitive qualifying time cuts.
“Our kids decided whether they wanted to go or not,” Lohberg said. “It is good to get out of South Florida for meets and a good chance for them to race before the summer meets.
“It is a relatively quick meet and it’s a good indoor pool. The timing is good and it’s a well-run meet. The trip is always fun. Our kids have always enjoyed going to this meet.”
The SOFLO meet roster features Melissa Cooper, 17, who recently signed with Texas A&M and will get a chance to swim in the pool she will call home for the next four years; British teenager Leonie Davies, 13; Canadian sisters Anne, 15 and Caroline Kuczynski, 19; Emma Lincoln, 14; Jenna Moodie, 15; Lucia Morris, 16; Brittney Phelan, 17;
Brandon Goldman, 15; Ryan O’Shaughnessy, 19; Zain Qali, 22; Alex Rodriguez, 19; Marc Rojas, 16; Tyler Sell, 18; and Luke Torres, 16.
The males will swim in 41 events and females 34 events.
“It’s a good meet for our swimmers,” Lohberg said. “They will have to be tough and swim fast. They will get the chance to have morning and night swims.
“The kids are going to enjoy it. Some who are back from college for the summer like Ryan and Rory will see where they are in their training after a couple of weeks. They have to race at some point, that is part of the equation. For the younger ones like Brandon, they will see what they can do at a meet like this.
“The main thing is they swim against good competition, have a good time and see something new. Everybody has a different purpose for this meet.”
Texas A&M host coach Steve Bultman said he expects about 300 swimmers.
“It’s a good solid senior meet,” Bultman said. “You are a pretty good swimmer if you have the qualifying times. It’s a confidence-building meet.
“We have a number of Texas teams, a couple of teams out of the association including King Aquatics and we’re looking forward to seeing SOFLO compete,” said Bultman, who has coached the women’s program at Texas A&M for 11 seasons.
Two-time Jamaican Olympian Alia Atkinson, who grew up in Pembroke Pines training with the Comets and won an individual NCAA title for Texas A&M this season, will compete for the Aggies’ club team and will share the pool deck with some of her future SOFLO club teammates.
Davies, coming off the All-Star Open Water competition in Fort Myers this past weekend, will make her national debut since moving to Florida from Maryland where she competed along the east coast.
“I am really excited,” Davies said. “It’s a cool experience. I get to see what it is like to be in the big game. It’s going to be a good experience and fun.”
Davies’ training has been going well. During the Texas A&M meet she will try to make her British junior national cut times in the 400 freestyle (needs about a five-second drop) and 800 freestyle (needs about a 30-second drop.”
“Training is going good, the practices are getting a lot harder,” Davies said. “I am getting back into really good shape and feeling stronger and stronger.”
After she competes at the FGC Junior Olympics, Davies and her family are going to their native England for a month to visit relatives. She plans to train at a Sheffield pool.
“If I swim well enough in Texas and Coral Springs I am hoping I could get my cuts and swim at nationals. I know it sounds like big time drops but it’s not impossible.”
More than 10 U.S. Olympians including gold medalists Ryan Lochte of Daytona Beach and newlywed Natalie Coughlin of Vallejo, Calif. will compete in the Swimnetwork.com Santa Clara International Grand Prix Thursday through Sunday. The meet is the second-to-last stop of the eight-meet USA Swimming Grand Prix. Swimnetwork.com and Universal Sports will webcast and broadcast the meet respectively.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com