By Sharon Robb

March 1, 2016—South Florida Aquatic Club’s Megan Romano and Lisa Blackburn, both in heavy training, will compete in the Arena Pro Swim Series that begins Thursday in Orlando.

Romano and Blackburn will join a star-studded lineup that features most of the nation’s top swimmers and several international standouts.

Romano, a former world champion, is training for the U.S. Olympic trials and hopes to make the U.S. Olympic women’s team which she barely missed in 2012.

Romano, 25, opens the competition on Thursday with the 200-meter freestyle. She is seeded 11th in 1:58.99.

Romano is also seeded in the 100-meter backstroke, 15th in 1:01.83 and 100-meter freestyle, 12th in 54.79.

Blackburn, a national record holder for Bermuda, hopes to compete for the tiny island at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

At 44, Blackburn is the oldest swimmer in the meet. She opens on Thursday with the 100-meter breaststroke. She is seeded 36th in 1:12.86. She is also entered in the 50-meter freestyle and 200-meter individual medley.

Four-time Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin of the Colorado Stars is a late addition to the meet. Franklin has entered five events: 50-, 100- and 200-meter freestyle, 100- and 200-meter backstroke.

Franklin will be among forty U.S. national team members competing. Heading the field are Katie Ledecky and Michael Phelps. Also in the field are Natalie Coughlin, Matt Grevers, Allison Schmitt, Elizabeth Beisel and Conor Dwyer.

The men’s sprint events features Italian Luca Dotto, Nathan Adrian, Bruno Fratus, Cesar Cielo and Caeleb Dressel, at 19 currently the hottest swimmer in the pool after breaking American records in the 50- and 100-yard freestyles at the recent Southeastern Conference Championships in Missouri.

Several Florida Gold Coast swimmers are competing including Pine Crest’s top sprinter Marta Ciesla and Marcelo Acosta of Azura Florida Aquatics. Most of Brazil’s national team is competing in Orlando. Cal swimmers Ryan Murphy, a Bolles alum, Josh Prenot, Jacob Pebley and Jeremie DeZwirek are also competing in the meet opting to forego the Pac-12 Championships. All four swimmers already have their cut times for the NCAA Championships.

Ledecky (34 points) and Adrian (20 points) currently lead the Arena Pro Swim Series points standings. The overall leaders win $10,000 in bonus money and the use of a BMW for a year.

Prize money is being awarded throughout the series. First place finishers earn $1,000, second place $600 and third place is $200.

IF YOU GO

What: Arena Pro Swim Series

When: Thursday-Saturday, prelims 9 a.m., finals 6 p.m.

Where: YMCA Aquatic Center, 8422 International Drive, Orlando

Broadcasts: Television coverage will air on same-day delay Friday, 10-11:30 p.m. on Universal HD and Saturday, 7:30-9 p.m. on NBC Sports Network. NBC Sports Live Extra will live stream Friday and Saturday finals. The entire meet will be webcast at usaswimming.org.

Of note: This is the third stop of the Arena series. It will serve as a FINA-approved competition where foreign swimmers can achieve qualifying times for the 2016 Olympic Games. The meet was capped at 600 swimmers. Florida Swimming, Inc. is host club. The meet is long course meters. The remaining Arena meets are April 14-16 in Mesa, Ariz., May 12-15 in Charlotte, N.C., June 3-5 in Indianapolis and June 3-5 in Santa Clara.

Admission: $20 general admission, VIP single sessions $50-$65, general admission all-session pass $80. Heat sheets $5. For questions call 407-363-1911.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

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