High School: Pembroke Pines Charter

College: St. Leo University

When Astrid Rigau leaves for college in August, saying goodbye to her “second family” at South Florida Aquatic Club will not be easy.

After seven years with the successful Florida Gold Coast club, Rigau made friends with swimmers and coaches while making memories that will last a lifetime.

Even with all the social media available and her scrapbook of photos that the talented photographer has taken through the years, it will still be hard.

“I have already started crying,” Rigau said.

“I went to Charter School since elementary school and it is mostly the same kids. I’ve watched all these swimmers like Alfredo Mesa grow up. They are my brothers and sisters and it will be emotional letting them go. How many months have I been seeing them twice a day? How can they not be family?”

Rigau, a successful high school and club swimmer, will be attending St. Leo University, the oldest Catholic college in Florida and sixth largest in the United States. St. Leo is an NCAA Division II school and competes in the Sunshine State Conference. The Lions are coached by Paul Mangen.

Rigau is following in the footsteps of SOFLO teammate Bianca Muniz, who recently graduated from St. Leo with three school records as anchor swimmer on the 200 and 400 freestyle relays and 400 medley relay. Rigau will join Heritage Aquatic Team swimmer and junior Chantal Boutillier on the St. Leo roster.

Rigau has been swimming with SOFLO for seven years.

“I would wake up at 4 in the morning for 5 a.m. practice, go to school, then afternoon practice and get home at 7,” Rigau said.

“Doing the senior videos for the banquet I was saying goodbye and started crying. I would do everything for my teammates. My room is dedicated to swimming. Honestly, they have been my life, training with them, going out as a team. Even when we are away from the pool we hang out. We all grew up together.”

It seems like only yesterday when Rigau’s mom signed her up for swim lessons after a close call in the pool.

“My parents had a scare when I was 3-years-old,” Rigau remembered. “A family friend pushed me into the deep end of the pool at one of our houses. I grew up in Puerto Rico and I was always around water so she put me in lessons.”

Rigau has always been athletic. She was involved in ballet and dance. When she was in middle school, she tried out for the Comets Swim team and was among 20 swimmers out of 100 who made the cut.

“I had every coach through the years,” she said. “I was in Meteorites, Asteroids and Bronze Group. The kids at school were on the swim team and that made it fun.

“I had a few injuries but no matter what happened I still came back. Something always brought me back.”

Rigau is excited about the next chapter of her life at St. Leo.

“I didn’t think about swimming for a college until my junior year,” she said. “Then I went on a field trip to all six public schools in Florida. I had been to St. Leo for swim camps and meets. Every time I was there I saw the coach and all the swimmers knew me and treated me like Bianca’s little sister. It’s an amazing group.

“I never thought I would be swimming in college. Look at me I am swimming in Division 2,” Rigau said. “I am really thankful to all my coaches for helping me get there.”

Rigau would love to represent Puerto Rico in international competition but wants to see how she does at the college level.

Her most memorable high school swimming moments during her four-year career was Pembroke Pines Charter winning three district team titles and swimming at regions every year.

“I was honored Coach Rose was one of my coaches. I know I gave her a hard time, I admit that,” Rigau said.

“Club swimming was great. The highlights would be doing a best time and winning Senior Championships in our home pool. The experience of being on SOFLO was the highlight of my life already.”

Rigau is expected to make an impact at St. Leo. She will swim the 50- and 100-yard freestyle, 100 butterfly or 200 individual medley and relays.

“With SOFLO as a building block I know I am going to improve,” she said.

Sharon Robb can be reached at