WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
CORAL SPRINGS—For two years, Luke Torres has been a work in progress.
After swimming in Brazil since he was 7 years old, Torres and his family moved to South Florida two years ago when he started training at the Coral Springs Aquatic Complex.
Since then, Torres, 16, a junior at Plantation American Heritage School, has bettered his career-best times in all his events and become one of the Florida Gold Coast’s top age group swimmers.
Torres will be among a field of more than 600 swimmers competing in the Florida Gold Coast Senior Championships that gets under way Friday at the Coral Springs Aquatic Complex.
Torres is entered in five events: the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke and 50-, 100- and 200-meter butterfly. He is hoping to swim career-best times particularly in the 100-meter butterfly, seeded at 57.64, in which he hopes to swim 55.55. “That’s the goal,” Torres said.
He will also make his debut in the July 27-31 Southern Zone Championships in Atlanta.
Born in San Diego, Calif., Torres has dual U.S. and Brazilian citizenship. He has his sights set on representing Brazil in international competition including the Olympic Games one day.
Torres lived in Sao Paulo, Brazil since he was 3. In addition to swimming, he competed in several sports including soccer, tennis and jiu-jitsu between ages 7 and 9 but decided on swimming when his coach told him he had the body type for a swimmer.
“My coach in Brazil said he could tell by the height of my parents that I would be a really good swimmer,” said Torres, now 6-foot-3. “Then I started beating people. That was the reason I stayed with it. My coaches told me I would be good, but I never thought I would get to this level.”
In Brazil, he competed only in the sprint freestyle. He started training in breaststroke and butterfly at Coral Springs.
Torres’ progress in the butterfly has been remarkable. He has dropped from 59.98 in May 2009 to 57.64 in June 2010 in the 100-meter butterfly and 2:17.92 in June 2009, 2:11.49 in May 2010 to 2:10.08 in June 2010.
“I have changed a lot since I started training with Michael (Lohberg),” Torres said. “My fly has been really good. I have dropped in every single meet.
“Two years ago I was swimming 1:10 before I got here and now my goal for this weekend’s meet is 55. Michael is the best coach I have ever had. Training in this atmosphere with swimmers like Ryan O’Shaughnessy and working with Michael has really helped me improve as a swimmer. He helps me with every single detail and technique.”
Torres said he feels more comfortable with his training and strokes now.
“It is a completely different style in Brazil and Coral Springs,” Torres said. “In Brazil you either do it or you are out and you pretty much train alone. Here it is more relaxed and fun and I train with some of the best swimmers. I am in the best shape I have ever been as a swimmer.”
Torres’ family plans to return to Brazil at the end of the year for business reasons. He plans on using his training time wisely while at Coral Springs.
“I love the feeling when you keep dropping time,” said Torres, who has had some impressive performances at the Texas Senior Circuit Meet, All-Stars and Junior Olympics.
“Looking at the board after my races I see how I am progressing. I am doing so much better than I used to do. It’s really a good feeling to have. It means a lot to train here. I love everyone on the team.”
The men’s field features several top SOFLO swimmers including two-time Olympian Vlad Polyakov, 26, who is swimming the 50- and 100-meter breaststroke for fun; Nawaf Al-Wazzan, 23, in the 50-meter freestyle; Zain Qali, 22; Keegan Boisson-Yates, 15; Marco Camargo, 21; Brandon Goldman, 15; Tyler Sell, 18; Loai Tashkandi, 19; and Marco Hosfeld, 14. Several SOFLO swimmers may swim limited events, choosing instead to focus on zones.
IF YOU GO
What: Florida Gold Coast Senior Championships
Where: Coral Springs Aquatic Complex, 12441 Royal Palm Blvd.
When: Friday-Sunday, prelims 8:30 a.m., finals 5 p.m.
Admission: $3 per session, $2 heat sheets. For information call 954-345-2121.
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org