By Sharon Robb
PLANTATION, February 5, 2021–Experience and youth shared the winner’s podium on opening day of the Florida Gold Coast Senior Long Course Qualifier Friday at Plantation Aquatic Complex.
Heidi George, 45, Great Wolf Swim Team of Fridley, Minnesota was the first woman and ninth overall in the 800-meter freestyle in 9:18.87. Her seed time was 9:08.09.
George Washington University-bound Philip Moldovanu, 17, of the Wahoos of Wellington won the men’s race in a lifetime-best 8:36.29. He dropped 28.01 off his seed time of 9:04.30.
South Florida Aquatic Club’s top finishers were Mariangela Cincotti, 17, and Enrique Rodriguez, 16. Cincotti was fifth among women and 18th overall in 9:53.90, just off her seed time of 9:50.11. Rodriguez was also fifth among men in 9:10.61, off his seed time of 9:08.78.
At 45, George is the oldest swimmer in the meet. Some of her swimming achievements: (52 swims) Top Ten achievements (47 individual), All-American Honors (9 years pool individual, 4 years long distance individual); U.S. Masters reecords (pool individual: 9 currently held, 25 lifetime , long distance individual: 1 currently held, 1 lifetime records.
George was a three-time NCAA Champion (’96, ’97 and ’98) in the 1,650 free, earning All-American honors on each of those occasions. She is the only Middlebury College of Vermont swimmer ever to win three-consecutive national titles in the same event. George was also the national runner-up in the 500 free (5:00.69) in 1996 and advanced to the finals in the same event the following year.
Moldovanu, 17, is a member of the 2019-2020 USA Swimming Scholastic All-American Team. He is a Wellington High School team record holder in the 500-yard freestyle, 200-yard freestyle and 200-yard individual medley.
While his public high school opted out of the state series, he did win the 2020 Palm Beach County Championships in the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyles.
Moldovanu is the first member of his Romanian family to be born in the U.S. He has been swimming since age 10. He is a senior at Wellington High School for the 2020-2021 school year, enrolled in the Marketing Academy and taking AP and AICE- level classes to achieve his AICE diploma.
The two-day meet ends Saturday with two sessions at 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. All events are timed finals.
SOFLO is among 33 teams competing along with Azura, Pine Crest, St. Andrew’s and Metro Aquatic Club of Miami. Out-of-state teams include Boise YMCA Swim Team, Flatiron Swimming, Freedom Aquatics, Great Wolf Swim Team, Nations Capital, St. Croix Dolphins, St. Thomas Swimming Association and Texas Ford Aquatics.
SOFLO has 47 athletes (26 male, 21 female) in 174 individual events and four relay events.
SOFLO’s four-time Jamaican Alia Atkinson heads an impressive field that also features Julia Podkoscielny of Pine Crest; Hector Paz of Metro Aquatic Club of Miami; Erika Pelaez of Eagle Aquatics; Paige MacEachern of Pine Crest; Joaquin Vargas of Azura; Anna Auld of East Coast Aquatics; Gabriel Araya of Azura; Joshua Hanks of Pine Crest; Josh Zuchowski of FAST and Hungarian Olympian Norbert Szabo, 25, swimming unattached.
Meet organizers are observing all COVID-19 safety protocols and social distancing. Athletes are required to wear masks while at the park whether they are on the deck or basketball courts. If athletes and coaches do not follow protocols they will be asked to leave.
No spectators are allowed on pool deck. The meet will be live streamed at live.pstpiranhas.com.
800-meter freestyle: 1. Heidi George, WOLF 9:18.87, 2. Erin Miller, SAS 9:22.60, 3. Paola Gonzalez, MAC 9:41.01, 4. Siena Griffiths, SAS 9:46.45, 5. Mariangela Cincotti, SOFLO 9:53.90, 6. Sam Schoenborn, SAS 9:54.28, 7. Lillian Smith, SAS 9:58.16, 8. Alexis Christensen, SOFLO 10:07.50, 9. Alexis Sanchez, PST 10:18.34, 10. Olivia Shaw, FAC 10:24.17.
800-meter freestyle: 1. Philip Moldovanu, WOW 8:36.29, 2. Hector Paz, MAC 9:08.20, 3. Alessandro Pereira, Unattached 9:08.51, 4. Marcelo Manur, MAC 9:09.99, 5. Enrique Rodriguez, SOFLO 9:10.61, 6. Carlos Lezcano, MAC 9:10.88, 7. Renato Herran, PST 9:15.72, 8. George Gonzalez, MAC 9:18.83, 9. Gabriel Tortola, Unattached 9:23.35, 10. Jackson Wampler, PST 9:31.86.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com