By Sharon Robb

April 12, 2015—CJ Kopecki is the perfect example what hard work and sheer determination can do for a swimmer.

The South Florida Aquatic Club age group swimmer has risen through the ranks since he started swimming competitively at age 10.

“When I first started, I was a slower kind of swimmer, I wasn’t fast at all,” Kopecki said. “I would see the older groups swim at meets and everyone would congratulate them after they would win. I started working towards that.”

Kopecki, now 15, didn’t do it alone.

First there was SOFLO veteran age group coach Coach Rose Lockie encouraging him.

“She was one of the big coaches who helped me the first year,” Kopecki said. “She put me in butterfly which is my best stroke.”

And there was former SOFLO coach Megan Garland the past three years.

“After Coach Rose helped me I started progressing a lot and doing really good after I turned 13,” Kopecki said. “I didn’t think I could get fast enough to move up to Silver and went into Senior Developmental. After one practice Coach Rose came to me and talked about it. She believed I could get there if I worked my butt off in swim practice. Eventually, after JOs, I moved up. Coach Megan helped me tremendously, too. I wouldn’t be where I am without her.”

And, of course, there are his teammates he trains with day in and day out.

Kopecki was 3 when his grandmother taught him how to swim. He played soccer, but soon realized he was more suited to swimming.

“I have flat feet and can’t run fast without hurting my knees and shins,” he explained. “I decided to do a sport I didn’t have to run in and started swimming. I wasn’t athletic or fit at all when I started.”

Between pool and dryland work, Kopecki ended up dropping 15 pounds and getting fitter.

“I always liked being in the water,” Kopecki said. “I liked going out in the ocean with my grandma.”

Kopecki, a freshman at American Heritage School, competed in his first state high school meet this past fall and is a member of the Patriots’ boys state champion team. His club highlight swims were at sectionals and senior championships.

“I was happiest with my 200 fly at sectionals,” Kopecki said. “It was the first time I made “A” finals at sectionals. I was happy with my mile at senior championships. My time drops were pretty good after I was injured (back). I didn’t have the endurance before and that mile showed me I was back and could do it.”

Kopecki hopes to get even stronger and faster over the next three years and earn a college scholarship.

“Coach Chris has been telling me if I keep working and progressing I can get there,” Kopecki said. “That’s a big goal of mine.”

Kopecki, coming off a bout of the flu, is working his way back into shape.

“I am just going to eat, sleep and swim and try to get my junior national cut,” Kopecki said.

He even plans on training while he is in Raleigh, N.C., site of the weeklong national competition where he will compete on a nine-member mock trial team for American Heritage Plantation. Kopecki is in his first year of the school’s law program. “It’s interesting and fun,” he said.

Kopecki joins February Swimmer of the Month Zackary Harris and 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

Sharon Robb can be reached at