WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
August 1, 2013
It was a night to remember for Marc Rojas of the South Florida Aquatic Club.
Rojas, 19, a sophomore at Indian River State College, won the 100-meter breaststroke.
Not only did Rojas swim a lifetime-best 1:03.72 but made his first-ever U.S. Open qualifying standard Thursday at the Senior Southern Zone Long Course Championships at Plantation Aquatic Complex.
Rojas split 29.68 and 34.04. The qualifying standard is 1:04.69. He was seeded third going into the meet in 1:05.97.
It was Rojas’ seventh event of the weeklong meet and most memorable.
In four days, Rojas has won four individual events including three lifetime-bests and competed on three relays.
But it’s the 100-meter breaststroke that will hold a special meaning for the talented swimmer.
Rojas touched the wall, heard the time and punched his fist in the air. SOFLO age group coach Megan Garland gave him a high-five. His teammates were cheering for him from start to finish.
“It just felt so surreal when the announcer said I went 1:03.7,” Rojas said. “That’s almost a second below the trials cut.
“I had the biggest smile on my face. Everybody went nuts. I was overwhelmed with joy. It’s a great feeling to achieve my dreams. This is what I was really, really working for my whole life.”
Since Rojas returned from college for summer training, he knew he had to get back in shape. After swimming primarily distance his freshman season, Rojas started focusing on his breaststroke seriously for the last month and a half.
“I really worked on my breaststroke,” Rojas said. “I feel like I am starting to understand the stroke, how to develop it and how to race. I have a better understanding how to perform.”
The senior southern zone meet has been good to Rojas. Last year he made four junior national cut times (200 breaststroke, mile, 800 and bonus 200 freestyle).
“I would say this is my best swim meet,” Rojas said. “Last year I had the meet of my life. I made four junior national cuts and dropped everything I swam.
“This meet has been really good to me. I really have lot of fun with this meet. It’s just about mental preparation on my goals I need to achieve. It’s about having the support of my coaches and teammates.
“Everything happens for a reason. Everything seemed to fall into place when I wanted it to. I don’t know why it’s this meet. It is what it is. I am greatful for that and humble for what I am achieving.”
During the meet Rojas had attempted to make his cut in the 200 breaststroke. Despite his heavy meet workload, he even time trialed on Wednesday.
“It was pretty frustrating,” Rojas admitted. “First I went out too fast. Then I was too easy. My pacing was all over the place. I was trying to get it down right and figuring it out. I was joking with my teammates that with each passing day I feel like I am getting a year older. I don’t have to feel good in order to race fast. It’s all mental and all the work you put in and how committed you are.
“In the 100, I went out the first 50 and just held it. This is the added fire I needed. I always had the fire in me. I just needed that big break. I knew I put in a lot of work. Now that it’s on paper, it’s a big weight off my shoulders.”
The second happiest person on the pooldeck was SOFLO age group coach Megan Garland who has been working with Rojas.
“This is a very big deal for him,” Garland said. “He had a great swim. He came back tonight and swam an amazing race. I am very happy and so proud of him. He has been working really hard.”
On Friday, the fifth and final day of the meet, Rojas will swim the 200-meter individual medley which he is seeded second in.
SOFLO remains fourth among 32 teams with 501.5 points.
Thirty-six attached teams and 381 swimmers are competing in the weeklong meet.
In addition to SOFLO other Florida Gold Coast teams Pine Crest Swimming, FLA, Flying Fish, Heritage Aquatics, North Miami Swim Team, Performance Aquatics, Titan Aquatics and Plantation Swim Team.
100-meter backstroke: 1. Katie Kelsoe, MTAC 1:05.88; SOFLO: 5. Marcella Marinheiro 1:07.92.
400-meter freestyle: 1. Carrie Bonfield, Piranha Swimming 4:25.99; SOFLO: 25. Kylie Herman 4:41.58.
100-meter breaststroke: 1. Carlotta Verita, FLA 1:14.70; SOFLO: 20. Delanie Perez 1:22.61, 25. Bianca Muniz 1:24.02.
100-meter butterfly: 1. Alicia Finnigan, FCST 1:03.20; SOFLO: 10. Maria Lopez 1:05.58, 11. Amber Hunter 1:05.73, best time.
400-meter freestyle relay: 1. North Florida 4:04.68, 4. SOFLO “A” 4:04.97 (Amber Hunter, Marcella Marinheiro, Kylie Herman, Melissa Marinheiro), 9. SOFLO “B” 4:13.20 (Maria Lopez, Bianca Monti, Bianca Muniz, Kelley Heron).
100-meter backstroke: 1. Grant Kelton, MTAC 1:00.19; SOFLO: 16. Gustavo Valery 1:06.17, 27. Ryan Capote 1:06.87.
400-meter freestyle: 1. Griff Hutton, Piranha Swimming 4:11.06; SOFLO: 14. Roger Capote 4:22.01, best time, 19. Gustavo Valery 4:22.70, best time.
100-meter breaststroke: 1. Marc Rojas, SOFLO 1:03.72, U.S. Open cut; SOFLO: 26. Matthew Gonzalez 1:14.70, best time, 29. Roger Capote 1:16.15.
100-meter butterfly: 1. Jacob Kelsoe, MTAC 57.37; SOFLO: 7. Endi Babi 1:00.40 (59.97 prelims), 14. Julien Pinon 1:00.27, best time, 30. Matthew Gonzalez 1:02.82 (1:02.25, prelims, best).
400-meter freestyle relay: 1. FLA 3:42.78, 5. SOFLO “A” 3:45.67 (Xavier Brown, Carlo Morante, Matthew Gonzalez, Ivan Parada), 11. SOFLO “B” 3:50.74 (Ryan Capote, Marc Rojas, Gustavo Valery, Alex Monti).
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Senior Southern Zone Long Course Championships.
WHERE: Plantation Aquatic Complex, 9151 NW Second Street
SCHEDULE: Friday, prelims 9 a.m., finals 5 p.m.
ADMISSION: $3 per session, $3 heat sheets.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com.