By Sharon Robb
March 3, 2015—Zackary Harris loves to swim and it shows.
The South Florida Aquatic Club age group swimmer started swimming when he was four after watching his older sister, Zariya, at swim practice.
“I fell in love with the sport, I thought it was cool,” Harris said.
“I was motivated by my sister. It was fun being in the water all day and talking to friends. I loved how the coaches would say ‘take you mark’ and all the swimmers would go off the blocks.”
From there his love for the sport escalated. At 6, he was pre-team and two weeks later he was swimming with the Dippers. Now 10, Harris is swimming in the Bronze Group with SOFLO age group coach Rose Lockie.
If it wasn’t for following in his sister’s footsteps, he probably would be playing soccer right now.
“I like both soccer and swimming,” Harris said. “I was really interested in swimming. I knew I couldn’t pick both. It wouldn’t work out. I would be juggling all these things so I had to pick one.
“After my first lesson I really liked it and I thought, yes, I want to swim full-time.”
Harris’ mother, Valerie, wanted her children to be water-safe at age 2 since there is a pool at her mother-in-law’s house. But never dreamed she would have two champion swimmers in the family even though athleticism runs deep. Both their mother and father were outstanding athletes in middle school, high school and college in basketball and football.
“That was my goal even before I had children that they knew how to swim,” Harris said. “Zack would watch his sister swim at the pool and did some private lessons. He was driven by the fact that his sister was swimming. He had natural ability and enjoyed it.”
Harris, a fourth grader at Renaissance Charter School in Pembroke Pines, is a good student in and out of the pool. He is a straight A honor roll student who loves social studies and history. He trains six days a week and lives the life of an athlete by eating healthy and getting his rest.
“He is really motivated to be successful in swimming,” Valerie Harris said. “I didn’t have to worry about his grades, he is a good student. What swimming has done is built his self-esteem. He is driven to succeed. Swimming has done a lot for him.”
There is no sibling rivalry between brother and sister, only the utmost respect between the two.
“He wants to do as well as she does,” Valerie Harris said. “She is proud of her brother. Every time he swims she gives him a little pep talk about remembering this and that. And he makes sure he is screaming for her at the end of her lane when she is racing. He idolizes her. Everything she does, he wants to be like her.”
Harris, a member of one of the most diverse teams in the Florida Gold Coast with all ethnicities, not only is following his 15-year-old sister’s lead but also has teammates Alia Atkinson and Xavier Brown to look up to as role models.
At age 7, he went up to SOFLO head coach Chris Anderson and asked him what it would take to make the national team. It’s something he is working very hard to achieve.
His best meet was Winter Championships where he swam all best times.
This weekend Harris will compete in seven 10-and-under events at the Florida Gold Coast Junior Olympics at Coral Springs. He will swim the 100 breaststroke (1:23.30), 100 butterfly (1:08.84), 100 individual medley (1:11.05), 200 freestyle (2:14.28), 50 butterfly (31.23), 200 individual medley (2:30.29) and 100 freestyle (1:02.03).
“I am excited about JOs, I have been waiting all year,” Harris said. “I would like to get top three in my age group in all my events.
“I am competitive,” Harris said. “I always want to get first. It’s the only goal I have when I am swimming in a race. I like getting better each time I swim.”
Harris said he would love to compete at the Olympics and earn a college swimming scholarship. He knows he has to work hard to get there and he is willing to do it.
“This is what I want to do, I love to swim,” Harris said.
Harris joins January Swimmer of the Month Madison Johnson. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org