WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
The South Florida Aquatic Club will be well-represented by eight talented swimmers when the USA Swimming Southern Zone Age Group Championships begin Tuesday at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center in Atlanta.
Zone championships feature top regional swimmers at the age group levels who qualify for these meets within the four designated Zones: Eastern, Central, Southern and Western.
SOFLO’s girls contingent are Stephanie Campo (11-12), Emma Lincoln (13-14), Tyla Martin (13-14) and Anne Kuczynski (15-18).
The boys team is Diego Rodriguez (11-12), Marco Hosfeld (13-14), Brandon Goldman (15-18) and Luke Torres (15-18).
“This meet is for kids that are almost at junior national level,” said SOFLO head coach Michael Lohberg. “It gives them an opportunity to travel and to race against really good kids from other parts of the country.
“We feel it is an important meet and if people have a chance to go we want them to go. It’s prelims and finals and in a good pool. It’s a very good opportunity.”
The swimmers had an early wakeup call for a 6 a.m. flight out of West Palm Beach on Monday. The team arrived safely in Atlanta and headed to the team hotel at the Marriott Courtyard Georgia Tech for lunch before a tour of the CNN building.
SOFLO swimmers and the other members of the Florida Gold Coast All-Star team got the chance to shake loose in the Georgia Tech Pool before a team dinner.
The five-day meet begins Tuesday with distance events timed finals in the 13-18 800- and 1500-meter freestyle events at 2 p.m. The full schedule of events gets underway at 9 a.m. with prelims. Finals are 6 p.m.
The meet also gives SOFLO swimmers the experience of being on their own on a road trip. Tyla Martin has the most experience in that department, travelling with her parents to two major Caribbean age group events this past year representing Trinidad and Tobago.
“It is a very good opportunity where we can send the kids basically away with somebody else so they get used to swimming on their own or with somebody else and not the protective environment that they have with their club team,” Lohberg said. “It’s a step outside.”
Illustrating the importance of the zone meet, SOFLO swimmers competed in limited events in both the Florida Gold Coast Junior Olympics and Senior Championships to focus on the zone meet.
“You either support the Florida Gold Coast and this concept or you don’t,” Lohberg said. “You can’t send them to this kind of meet unless they are ready to race. It would be unfair to get them too tired in other meets. That’s really not the point.
“This is the first time they enter new territory and we want them to have a positive experience,” Lohberg said.
It’s also a time for the swimmers to shine at the end of the long course season.
“This meet is all about team and good performances,” Lohberg said. “You have to swim relatively fast to make it into finals. That’s the idea–make it to the finals and then score as high as you can in your good events. This is their first step into the real world.”
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org