SOFLO Pro Swimmers Make Debut At Florida Gold Coast Open Invitational This Weekend

By Sharon Robb

January 29, 2015—South Florida Aquatic Club, a well-established age group program, is attracting elite pro swimmers to its team.

The Florida Gold Coast’s winningest program the past two years in major meets at the age group level, has added five pro swimmers to its roster, four of which will make their SOFLO home meet debut this weekend at the SOFLO Florida Gold Coast Open Invitational at Academic Village Pool in Pembroke Pines.

Three-time Jamaican Olympian and world record holder Alia Atkinson, 25, has trained at SOFLO for ten years. She will be joined by Jamaican teammate Timothy Wynter, Bermuda national record holder Lisa Blackburn, two-time Colombian Olympian Carolina Colorado, Jorge Mario Murillo Valdes and Valentina Artemyeva.

Only Atkinson and Artemyeva will not swim this weekend but will compete in next month’s Arena Pro Series in Orlando.

Wynter, 19, is a national record holder in the 50, 100 and 200 backstroke events. He set national records in the World Youth Championships, Bahamian Championships and CARIFTA. He also competed in the 2012 FINA World Championships. He also competes in the freestyle and butterfly.

Blackburn, 43, is a national record holder in the 50, 100 and 200 breaststrokes, 200 butterfly and 200 IM and three relays for Bermuda. Having dual Canadian citizenship, she qualified for the Commonwealth Games and 2003 Pan American Games where she medaled. She is also a world masters record holder.

Colorado, 27, is a two-time Olympian and national record holder for Colombia. She competed in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. She holds five individual national records in the 50, 100 and 200 backstroke, 100 freestyle and 50 butterfly. She also holds five national relay records.

Murillo Valdes, 23, holds the national records in the 50, 100 and 200 breaststroke events for Colombia and two national relay records.

Valentina Evgenevna Artemyeva, 28, is a breaststroke and sprint freestyler. She is a Russian national record holder and former European and world record holder.

SOFLO dominates the meet’s top seeds. Wynter is seeded first in the 1,000-yard freestyle, 100-yard backstroke and 100-yard butterfly; Colorado is first in the 100-yard backstroke and 50-yard freestyle; Murillo Valdes is first in the 50-yard breaststroke and 50-yard freestyle.

The meet gets under way Friday with the open 1,000-yard freestyle and 12-and-under 200-yard freestyle and 200-yard IM events.

SOFLO has the largest team entered with 131 (67 females and 64 males). Among other teams competing are AquaKids Sharks, Miami Swimming, Boca Raton Swim Team, North Miami Swim Team, Metro Aquatics and City Miami Parks.


What: SOFLO Florida Gold Coast Open Invitational

When: Friday-Sunday

Where: Academic Village Pool, 17189 Sheridan St., Pembroke Pines.

Schedule: Friday, Session 1, 5 p.m.; Saturday, Session 2, 8:30 a.m.; Session 3, 12:30 p.m.; Sunday, Session 4, 8:30 a.m.; Session 5, 12:30 p.m.

Admission: $3 per session, heat sheets $3 per session. For information call 954-538-3721.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

SOFLO Rocks Nine-and-Under Age Group Races In Sprint Meet

By Sharon Robb

January 25, 2015—South Florida Aquatic Club’s younger swimmers got the chance to flex their swimming muscles Saturday at the Sharks & Piranhas 14-and-Under Mixed 50 Sprint Invitational at Nova Southeastern University Aquatic Complex.

Kaitlyn Barrios, 9, Mariann Catalasan, 8, and Luna Delgado, 9, swept the top three places in the 50-meter butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle girls races.

SOFLO swimmers have never swept the top three spots in every event at a swim meet.

The trio also finished in the top three in high point. Barrios led with 76 points followed by Pando with 64 and Delgado with 63.

SOFLO boys nearly pulled off the same feat.

Jacob Navarro, 9, Lucas Porven, 9, and Samuel Bullen, 9, also finished in the top three in three of the four events. Bullen and Navarro finished in the top three in all four events.

Navarro, Porven and Bullen also swept the top three spots in high point. Navarro was first with 72, Porven second with 68 and Bullen third with 67.

In the age 10 group, Sebastian Navarro, 10, was third in the butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle events. He was third in high point with 64 points.



50-meter butterfly:

9-and-under, 1. Kaitlyn Barrios, SOFLO 50.65, 2. Luna Delgado, SOFLO 56.71, 3. Mariann Catalasan, SOFLO 57.35; 10, 1. Isabella Chambers, PST 38.60, 2. Megan Smith, PST 46.28, 3. Kate Kaplan, PST 47.62; 11, 1. Giovanna Key, FLA 36.87, 2. Little Bit Arentsen, PST 40.39, 3. Amy Hernandez, PST 42.13; 12, 1. Endeara Deskin, PST 34.82, 2. Regina Rodriguez, PST 39.73, 3. Gaby Chambers, PST 40.23; 13, 1. Emily Fernandez, PST 38.69, 2. Jacqueline Gonoretzky, FLA 41.56, 3. Cayla Deitz, FLA 47.61; 14, 1. Jennifer Zukoski, PST 47.23, 2. Ashley Ross, PST 53.22.

50-meter backstroke:

9-and-under, 1. Kaitlyn Barrios, SOFLO 51.35, 2. Mariann Catalasan, SOFLO 52.81, 3. Luna Delgado, SOFLO 53.29; 10, 1. Isabella Chambers, PST 38.43, 2. Megan Smith, PST 43.88, 3. Kate Kaplan, PST 48.52; 11, 1. Little Bit Arentsen, PST 42.49, 2. Giovanna Key, FLA 46.10, 3. Amy Hernandez, PST 48.67; 12, 1. Endeara Deskin, PST 40.21, 2. Gaby Chambers, PST 40.57, 3. Regina Rodriguez, PST 40.94; 13, 1. Jacqueline Gonoretzky, FLA 43.71, 2. Emily Fernandez, PST 44.25, 3. Cayla Deitz, FLA 50.72; 14, 1. Jennifer Zukoski, PST 47.23, 2. Ashley Ross, PST 47.92.

50-meter breaststroke:

9-and-under, 1. Kaitlyn Barrios, SOFLO 55.64, 2. Leah Pando, SOFLO 57.66, 3. Mariann Catalasan, SOFLO 1:00.25; 10, 1. Isabella Chambers, PST 42.48, 2. Kate Kaplan, PST 46.70, 3. Eva Pierre-Antoine, PST 51.64; 11, 1. Little Bit Arentsen, PST 46.30, 2. Giovanna Key, FLA 50.85, 3. Amy Hernandez, PST 52.99; 12, 1. Gaby Chambers, PST 44.11, 2. Endeara Deskin, PST 46.70, 3. Jillian Zelch, PST 51.73; 13, 1. Emily Hernandez, PST 46.97, 2. Jacqueline Gonoretzky, FLA 49.09, 3. Cayla Deitz, FLA 1:08.20; 14, 1. Jennifer Zukoski, PST 46.93, 2. Ashley Ross, PST 57.12.

50-meter freestyle:

9-and-under, 1. Kaitlyn Barrios, SOFLO 40.37, 2. Leah Pando, SOFLO 45.13, 3. Luna Delgado, SOFLO 45.75; 10, 1. Isabella Chambers, PST 33.45, 2. Megan Smith, PST 36.09, 3. Kate Kaplan, PST 37.17; 11, 1. Little Bit Arentsen, PST 33.30, 2. Giovanna Key, FLA 35.61, 3. Amy Hernandez, PST 38.30; 12, 1. Endeara Deskin, PST 31.94, 2. Regina Rodriguez, PST 32.87, 3. Gaby Chambers, ST 33.12; 13, 1. Jacqueline Gonoretzky, FLA 32.18, 2. Emily Fernandez, PST 36.06, 3. Sophie Berday, FLA 36.56; 14, 1. Jennifer Zukoski, PST 36.42, 2. Ashley Ross, PST 37.98.


9-and-under, 1. Kaitlyn Barrios, SOFLO 76, 2. Leah Pando, SOFLO 64, 3. Luna Delgado, SOFLO 63; 10, 1. Isabella Chambers, PST 76, 2. Megan Smith, PST 66, 3. Kate Kaplan, PST 65; 11, 1. Little Bit Arentsen, PST 74, 2. Giovanna Key, FLA 70, 3. Amy Hernandez, PST 64; 12, 1. Endeara Deskin, PST 74, 2. Gaby Chambers, PST 68, 3. Regina Rodriguez, PST 65; 13, 1. Emily Fernandez, PST, Jacqueline Gonoretzky, FLA 72, 3. Cayla Deitz, FLA 63; 14, 1. Jennifer Zukoski, PST 76, 2. Ashley Ross, PST 68.


50-meter butterfly:

9-and-under, 1. Jacob Navarro, SOFLO 53.14, 2. Lucas Porven, SOFLO 54.99, 3. Samuel Bullen, SOFLO 59.69; 10, 1. Yannai Michael, PST 39.89, 2. Joshua Brezenski, PST 39.92, 3. Sebastian Navarro, SOFLO 43.70; 11, 1. Troy Spratley, PST 41.20, 2. Spence Grosso, PST 42.03, 3. Anthony Fernandez, PST 45.26; 12, 1. Robert Wilson, PST 33.95, 2. Mikey Cline, PST 36.95, 3. Jio Tapia, FLA 37.97; 13, 1. Eli Levit, FLA 38.77, 2. Chey Sirota, PST 40.66, 3. Liam Kilroy, PST 44.35; 14, 1. Aaron Blanco, PST 36.45.

50-meter backstroke:

9-and-under, 1. Lucas Porven, SOFLO 53.20, 2. Jacob Navarro, SOFLO 53.33, 3. Samuel Bullen, SOFLO 55.09; 10, 1. Yannai Michael, PST 43.74, 2. Joshua Brezenski, PST 46.22, 3. Sebastian Navarro, SOFLO 49.15; 11, 1. Troy Spratley, PST 43.71, 2. Julian Dynek, Shorewood 46.51, 3. Anthony Fernandez, PST 47.40; 12, 1. Robert Wilson, PST 37.89, 2. Mikey Cline, PST 40.44, 3. Misha Perez, FLA 43.68; 13, 1. Eli Levit, FLA 43.65, 2. Liam Kilroy, PST 44.90, 3. Chey Sirota, PST 45.28; 14, 1. Aaron Blanco, PST 42.08.

50-meter breaststroke:

9-and-under, 1. Samuel Bullen, SOFLO 53.04, 2. Jacob Navarro, SOFLO 55.65, 3. Ryan Kibler, PST 59.48; 10, 1. Yannai Michael, PST 44.93, 2. Matthew Kim, SOFLO 56.35, 3. Sebastian Navarro, SOFLO 58.12; 11, 1. Wilson Ward, FLA 48.22, 2. Julian Dynek, Shorewood 49.47, 3. Troy Spratley, PST 50.15; 12, 1. Mikey Cline, PST 46.03, 2. Robert Wilson, PST 46.54, 3. Jio Tapia, FLA 48.10; 13, 1. Eli Levit, FLA 46.00, 2. Chey Sirota, PST 47.13, 3. Liam Kilroy, PST 51.01; 14, 1. Aaron Blanco, PST 46.65.

50-meter freestyle:

9-and-under, 1. Jacob Navarro, SOFLO 40.47, 2. Lucas Porven, SOFLO 43.09, 3. Samuel Bullen, SOFLO 46.70; 10, 1. Yannai Michael, PST 34.17, 2. Joshua Brezenski, PST 36.58, 3. Sebastian Navarro, SOFLO 38.91; 11, 1. Julian Dynek, Shorewood 35.93, 2. Troy Spratley, PST 36.24, 3. Anthony Fernandez, PST 36.52; 12, 1. Robert Wilson, PST 29.83, 2. Mikey Cline, PST 32.96, 3. Jio Tapia, FLA 35.32; 13, 1. Eli Levit, FLA 32.94, 2. Chey Sirota, PST 36.55, 3. Liam Kilroy, PST 37.69; 14, 1. Aaron Blanco, PST 31.45.


9-and-under, 1. Jacob Navarro, SOFLO 72, 2. Lucas Porven, SOFLO 68, 3. Samuel Bullen, SOFLO 67; 10, 1. Yannai Michael, PST 76, 2. Joshua Brezenski, PST 66, 3. Sebastian Navarro, SOFLO 64; 11, 1. Troy Spratley, PST 71, 2. Julian Dynek, Shorewood 68, 3. Anthony Fernandez, PST 63; 12, 1. Robert Wilson, PST 74, 2. Mikey Cline, PST 70, 3. Jio Tapia, FLA 62; 13, 1. Eli Levit, FLA 76, 2. Chey Sirota, PST 67, 3. Liam Kilroy, PST 65; 14, 1. Aaron Blanco, PST 76.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

SOFLO Swimmers Compete Saturday In Sprint Meet

By Sharon Robb

January 23, 2015—South Florida Aquatic Club will send seventeen swimmers to compete in the Sharks & Piranhas Long Course Mixed 50 Sprint Invitational.

Nova Southeastern and Plantation Swim Team is co-hosting the unique meet for swimmers 14-and-under.

SOFLO swimmers competing are Kaitlyn Barrios, 9; Samuel Bullen, 9; Mariann Catalasan, 8; Celeste Cuevas, 8; Luna Delgado, 9; Benjamin Kim, 7; Matthew Kim, 10; Carol Lambert, 10; Maria Legaspi, 8; Molly Masson, 10; Judith-Alison Natino, 9; Jacob Navarro, 9; Sebastian Navarro, 10; Antonia Ortiz, 7; Leah Pando, 8; Giada Porven, 6; and Lucas Porven, 9.

The meet gets under way 8:30 a.m. All events will be staged fastest to slowest.

Events are mixed 50 butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle. All events will be held together and scored separately by age group.

Age groups are 14, 13, 12, 11, 10 and 9-and-under.


What: Sharks & Piranhas Long Course Mixed 50 Sprint Invitational

When: Saturday, 8:30 a.m.

Where: Nova Southeastern University Aquatic Complex, SW 36th Street and SW 75th Ave., Davie

Admission: $3, heat sheet $3.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

SOFLO’S Alia Atkinson Named Jamaica Sportswoman of the Year

By Sharon Robb

January 17, 2015—South Florida Aquatic Club’s Alia Atkinson, after two runner-up finishes, was named the 2014 Jamaica Sportswoman of the Year Friday night at a gala event at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston.

Atkinson, 25, a three-time Olympian for Jamaica, broke out of the shadows of track and field athletes that usually dominate the coveted annual RKR Sports Foundation’s award.

It took a world record and first-ever gold medal at the FINA World Short Course Swimming Championships in December to earn the award.

Atkinson was the first non-track and field athlete honored in forty-one years, another milestone for the sport and swimmer, who became the first black woman to win a world title and tie the world record in the 100-meter breaststroke in December.

Atkinson also took silver and bronze at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland and finished third overall in the FINA World Cup Short Course Series.

Atkinson is only the third swimmer to be honored as Sportswoman of the Year. Belinda Phillips (1974) and Frances Noble (1968) were the others to win the award since its inception 54 years ago.

Atkinson has been runner-up to track star Shelly-Ann Fraser for the past two years. She has been nominated five times.

“It is a single honor, one which I am very proud of,” Atkinson said. “It shows that I am still performing at high standards.

“Being recognized in such a manner bodes well for swimming in Jamaica,” Atkinson said. “It helps keep swimming on the map and hopefully, will provide the impetus necessary for others to enter swimming and succeed.

“This is more than about me. A country…a nation…a race. This is just not mine.”

Atkinson was also presented the Gleaner Honour Award and People’s Choice Award for Performance of the Year. Atkinson finished ahead of Nicholas Walters, Jaheel Hyde, Kemar Lawrence and Andre Russell. Atkinson also took home trophies for her world record and Commonwealth performance.

SOFLO head coach Chris Anderson, who has coached the Flanagan High School and Texas A&M alum since she was 14 and played a huge role in her success, and SOFLO assistant coach Megan Garland, who are conducting clinics in Jamaica, were among VIP guests at the awards ceremony.

In another departure, WBA featherweight champion boxer Nicholas (The Axeman) Walters was named Jamaica’s National Sportsman of the Year.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

Blackburn Leads SOFLO On Opening Day Of Gulliver Long Course Senior Invitational

By Sharon Robb

January 11, 2015—If Day One of the Gulliver Long Course Senior Invitational is any indication, it’s going to be a very competitive long course season.

On a chilly, windswept day at Gulliver Prep’s Marian Krutulis Aquatic Facility in Miami, Lisa Blackburn, a Bermuda national record holder, did well in her first meet representing South Florida Aquatic Club.

At 43, the oldest swimmer in the field won the 100-meter breaststroke in 1:18.46; second in the 200-meter breaststroke in 2:54.71 and fifth in the 50-meter freestyle in 28.93.

Some of SOFLO’s other top swims:

Kathleen Golding, 14, fourth in both the 400-meter freestyle in 4:35.24 and 100-meter breaststroke in 1:24.42.

Stephanie Mlujeak, 16, swam a best time 5:10.72 in the 400-meter freestyle, dropping 0.37.

Leonardo Mateus, 13, turned in a best time 2:36.41 in the 200-meter butterfly, dropping 9.70 seconds.

Sebastian Sevilla, 13, swam a best time 31.21 in the 50-meter freestyle and best time 1:21.44 in the 100-meter backstroke.

Julien Pinon, 16, was fourth in the 400-meter freestyle in 4:24.53.

Abby Oyetunji, 15, swam a best time 1:34.50 in the 100-meter breaststroke, dropping 0.88.

Simon Ortiz, 16, had a 4.08-second drop with a best time 1:20.24 in the 100-meter butterfly.



200-meter butterfly:

1.Alicia Mancilla, GRSC 2:27.94, 2. Brooke Elis, GRSC 2:31.44, 3. Natalie Aulicino, GRSC 2:36.47.

50-meter freestyle:

1.Andrea Santander, GRSC 28.15, 2. Niki Urquidi, GRSC 28.61, 3. Allora Williams, SF 28.80; SOFLO: 4. Lisa Blackburn 28.93, 12. Abby Oyetunji 30.06, 19. Stephanie Mlujeak 31.10, best time, 26. Zariya Harris 31.65, 39. Alana Acevedo 34.08.

200-meter breaststroke:

1.Rachael Bradford-Feldman, SAS 2:47.83, 2. Lisa Blackburn, SOFLO 2:54.71, 3. Tiffany Korb, SAS 2:59.07; SOFLO: 11. Victoria Lumelski 3:26.35.

100-meter backstroke:

1.Megan Moroney, SAS 1:07.59, 2. Kelley Heron, SOFLO 1:10.37, 3. Rachael Bradford-Feldman, SAS 1:10.43; SOFLO: 6. Kathleen Golding 1:13.59, 16. Abby Oyetunji 1:19.95, 20. Stephanie Mlujeak 1:22.79, 23. Zariya Harris 1:24.69, 31. Alana Acevedo 1:30.94.

400-meter freestyle:

1.Megan Moroney, SAS 4:33.25, 2. Andrea Santander, GRSC 4:34.12, 3. Alicia Mancilla, GRSC 4:35.00; SOFLO: 4. Kathleen Golding 4:35.24, 6. Kelley Heron 4:44.84, 19. Abby Oyetunji 5:02.34, 24. Stephanie Mlujeak 5:10.72, best time, 36. Victoria Lumelski 5:22.97, 37. Alana Acevedo 5:25.04.

100-meter breaststroke:

1.Lisa Blackburn, SOFLO 1:18.46, 2. Tiffany Korb, SAS 1:22.64, 2. Grayson Johnston, SAS 1:23.03; SOFLO: 4. Kathleen Golding 1:24.42, 15. Abolade Oyetunji 1:34.50, 19. Alana Acevedo 1:52.34.

200-meter freestyle:

1.Megan Moroney, SAS 2:08.89, 2. Andrea Santander, GRSC 2:10.77, 3. Niki Urquidi, GRSC 2:12.13; SOFLO: 13. Abby Oyetunji 2:21.65.

100-meter butterfly:

1.Megan Moroney, SAS 1:04.78, 2. Emily Cordovi, GRSC 1:06.29, 3. Alicia Mancilla, GRSC 1:08.42; SOFLO: 5. Kathleen Golding 1:09.01, 22. Abby Oyetunji 1:19.88, 32. Alana Acevedo 1:26.29.

400-meter individual medley:

1.Rachael Bradford-Feldman, SAS 5:08.15, 2. Andrea Santander, GRSC 5:08.95, 3. Natalie Aulicino, GRSC 5:29.81.


200-meter butterfly:

1.Nicholas Nord, GRSC 2:12.16, 2. Jose Martinez, Azura 2:13.54, 3. Fernando Bohorquez, Azura 2:15.82; SOFLO: 10. Leonardo Mateus 2:36.41

50-meter freestyle:

1.Elias Mehrdad, Azura 24.00, 2. Jose Martinez, Azura 24.19, 3. Brody Heck, SAS 24.28; SOFLO: 13. Julien Pinon 25.81, 40. Eiza Gantus 30.73, 42. Simon Ortiz 30.83, 44. Sebastian Sevilla 31.21, best time.

200-meter breaststroke:

1.Marco Guarente, Azura 2:32.09, 2. Adan Diaz, Unattached-Azura 2:34.25, 3. Thomas Hale, Unattached-Azura 2:37.85; SOFLO: 12. Eiza Gantus 3:21.56.

100-meter backstroke:

1.Mateo Gonzalez, Azura 1:00.29, 2. Jose Martinez, Azura 1:01.16, 3. Esteban Diaz-Velasco, SOFLO 1:02.59; SOFLO: 15. Leonardo Mateus 1:11.16; 20. Sebastian Sevilla 1:21.44, 22. Eiza Gantus 1:23.96.

400-meter freestyle:

1.Franco Lupoli, Azura 4:03.89, 2. Simon Wanna, GRSC 4:16.04, 3. Nicholas Nord, GRSC 4:19.32; SOFLO: 4. Julien Pinon 4:24.53, 16. Leonardo Mateus 4:40.12.

100-meter breaststroke:

1.Adan Diaz, Unattached-Azura 1:08.87, 2. Marco Guarente, Azura 1:08.88, 3. Mateo Gonzalez, Azura 1:09.25; SOFLO: 16. Leonardo Mateus 1:29.67, 19. Eiza Gantus 1:34.36, 23. Simon Ortiz 1:37.74.

200-meter freestyle:

1.Franco Lupoli, Azura 1:55.63, 2. Elias Mehrdad, Azura 1:59.80, 3. Jose Martinez, Azura 2:00.19; SOFLO: 25. Leonardo Mateus 2:15.31, 41. Simon Ortiz 2:27.63, 42. Eiza Gantus 2:28.22.

100-meter butterfly:

1.Mateo Gonzalez, Azura 56.89, 2. Jose Martinez, Azura 57.68, 3. Raiz Tjon-A-Joe, Azura 58.89; SOFLO: 37. Simon Ortiz 1:20.24.

400-meter individual medley:

1.Miguel Cancel, GRSC 4:49.49, 2. Nicholas Nord, GRSC 4:55.82, 3. Nick Sharp, SAS 502.84; SOFLO: 9. Leonardo Mateus 5:21.71.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

SOFLO Competes In First Long Course Meet Of The Florida Gold Coast Season At Gulliver

By Sharon Robb

January 8, 2015—After its most successful club season in 2014, South Florida Aquatic Club will begin its quest to raise the bar again when it opens the long course season this weekend.

SOFLO will compete in the Gulliver Long Course Senior Invitational in Miami.

The two-day meet that begins on Saturday, has attracted most of the Florida Gold Coast’s top teams including Azura Florida Aquatics, St. Andrew’s Swimming, Gulliver and SOFLO.

All three sessions are timed finals for individual events. There are no relays and the meet will not be scored.

At 43, Lisa Margaret Blackburn, one of the newest members of SOFLO, is the oldest swimmer entered. The Bermuda national record holder is training full-time for major meets including the Pan American Games and 2016 Rio Olympics.

Blackburn will compete in the 50-meter freestyle, 200-meter breaststroke and 100-meter breaststroke.

SOFLO has 17 swimmers—nine women and eight men—entered in 60 individual events. They are Alana Acevedo, 13; Esteban Diaz-Velasco, 15; Eiza Gantus, 13; Kathleen Golding, 14; Zariya Harris, 15; Kelley Heron, 15; Victoria Lumelski, 16; Leonardo Mateus, 13; Stephanie Mlujeak, 16; Simon Ortiz, 16; Abby Oyetunji, 16; Julien Pinon, 16; Sebastian Sevilla 13; Jonathan Strod, 16; Carly Swanson, 17; and Gustavo Valery, 16.

Among top seeds are:

Virginia-bound Megan Moroney, 17, of St. Andrew’s Swimming entered in four events: 400-meter freestyle, 100-meter backstroke, 100-meter butterfly and 200-meter freestyle.

Other top seeds are: Niki Urquidi, 17, of Gulliver in the 50-meter freestyle; Marco Guarente, 17, of Azura in the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke; Franco Lupoli, 20, of Azura in the 400- and 1500-meter freestyle; Kelly Fertel, 17, of Gulliver in the 100-meter breaststroke; Nick Carter, 24, of Gulliver in the 100-meter backstroke; and Rachael Bradford-Feldman, 17, of St. Andrew’s Swimming.

Urquidi and Fertel are members of the 2A state high school girls champion team. Fertel won an individual state title in the 200-yard medley relay and second in the 100-yard breaststroke.

The men’s field also features high school state champion Brody Heck of St. Andrew’s Swimming, who swept the 50- and 100-yard freestyles for Boca Raton High School.


What: Gulliver Long Course Senior Invitational

When: Saturday, Session 1, timed finals 8:30 a.m., 200 butterfly, 50 freestyle, 200 breaststroke, 100 backstroke, 400 freestyle; Session 2, timed finals, 3:30 p.m., 100 breaststroke, 200 freestye, 100 butterfly, 400 individual medley; Sunday, Session 3, timed finals, 10 a.m., 200 individual medley, 100 freestyle, 200 backstroke, 800 freestyle, 1500 freestyle.

Where: Marian Krutulis Aquatic Facility, Gulliver Prep, 6575 SW 88th St., Miami

Admission: $3, heat sheets $3 per session.

Sharon Robb can be reached at


By Sharon Robb

January 7, 2015—Long before she was a world and national record holder, gold medalist and ambassador for the sport, Alia Atkinson was a gangly 14-year-old teenager with a dream.

In 2001, she joined Comets Swim Team, now the South Florida Aquatic Club, and started working with head coach Chris Anderson.

Three years later, she was living that dream in the first of three Summer Olympic appearances for Jamaica.

She has competed in the 2004 Athens, 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics, where she came close to winning her first Olympic medal, finishing fourth in the 100-meter breaststroke.

She won a 2010 NCAA title in the 200-yard breaststroke in her senior year at Texas A&M.

But it wasn’t until 2014 when her just-misses for gold and world records in major meets turned into a world record, gold medal and milestone for black swimmers.

After dominating the FINA Grand Prix Series and cashing in on her biggest payday in swimming, Atkinson, at age 25, tied the world record and won a gold medal at the FINA World Short Course Championships.

She is not only the first Jamaican swimmer, man or woman, to tie a world record (1:02.36) and win a gold medal in a major meet, but she is the first black woman to win a world title, hopefully opening the door for other black swimmers who have a dream and now see that it can be done.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Atkinson, whose stunned look after her race was captured in a photo and seen throughout the world on national television and every major website, newspaper and magazine.

“It came down to the same thing as the 50 where I got out-touched so in my mind I went straight back to that. I just thought, ‘Oh, OK’ and looked up at the board, and it didn’t really click yet and then it really started to click. It took a while.”

Atkinson has always been an inspiration to her SOFLO teammates who look up to her and are thrilled to train and share the same pool deck with her. She is hoping to inspire other women in the Caribbean and Jamaica, where there is more attention given to track and field and bobsledding, to get involved in swimming and make a little history of their own.

“Hopefully, my face will come out, there will be more popularity, especially in Jamaica and Caribbean and we’ll see more of a rise, and hopefully in the future we will see a push.”

Atkinson is currently leading Jamaica’s People’s Choice Award poll by the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper. She has 68 percent of the votes while No. 2 athlete Jaheel Hype has 29 percent.

The Speedo-sponsored swimmer is also the odds-on favorite to be named Jamaica’s Sportswoman of the Year after finishing runner-up several times to track athletes. The award will be announced at a reception on Jan. 16 at Jamaica’s Pegasus Hotel.

To take up where she left off in 2014 and to start the 2015 season off, Atkinson posted on her Facebook page: 2013 Was Practice, 2014 Was The Warm-up, 2015 Is Game Time.

Atkinson joins other 2014 SOFLO Swimmers of the Month sisters Kathleen and Molly Golding for January, Sebastian Sierra for February, Jessica Rodriguez for March, Leonardo Mateus for April, Rafael Rodriguez for May, Valentina Carrion for June, Erika Pelaez for July, Isabella Di Salvo for August, Kellie Wilcox for September, Sara Quintero for October and Jacqueline Lugo for November.

The Nike Swimmer of the Month award, chosen by the SOFLO coaching staff, is awarded each month to the swimmer who excels at both swim meets and practice sessions.

Sharon Robb can be reached at