By Sharon Robb
PEMBROKE PINES, July 16, 2021–A year ago, Gabriella DeLuna was ready to quit swimming.

“I had a really big downfall when I was 13,” DeLuna said. “I couldn’t improve in anything. I really felt unmotivated and it showed in my times. On Swim Cloud you could see how from 10, 11 and 12 my times kept going up and then 13 hit and it went down because I was going slower than my old times.

“I wanted to quit. I didn’t want to give up. I just felt myself getting slow and didn’t feel like trying as much. I didn’t like the feeling of losing and gaining time.

“I really wanted to get better after I came back from the pandemic. I started training a lot harder. I chose to keep going through. I’m glad I didn’t quit. I am doing much better.”

A year later, the 14-year-old’s improvement has been remarkable after she moved into Gold Group at the end of March after the ISCA meet.

“When I was in Silver I just felt my full potential hadn’t been unlocked yet,” DeLuna said. “I was surrounded by younger people and I was the oldest in the group. I always felt like I had to be the leader.

“When I joined Gold, the practices got harder. I really like hard practices because I think I improve in them. I started wearing a drag suit. I have been pushing myself a lot harder, making sure I don’t miss practices just so I can improve. I really do love swimming.”

DeLuna started swimming at age 7. She participated in gymnastics and basketball but soon discovered swimming was her passion.

“I was in the pool one day in my backyard and I noticed I really liked being in the pool and that’s when I asked to start swimming lessons,” DeLuna said.

DeLuna first swam for the YMCA and then moved to Midtown Weston Aquatics. She has been with South Florida Aquatic Club for a year. She will be a sophomore this fall at Cypress Bay High School where she will compete for the varsity swim team. Last season she had only one meet because of COVID.

“I really like SOFLO,” DeLuna said. “I think this is the team I felt the most welcome. I feel like I am improving a lot. I like being around my teammates. I don’t want to miss practice because I want to see them all the time. A big part of my improvement is because of my teammates. I really do appreciate them. I know if they weren’t there I probably wouldn’t be swimming as good as I am.”

At the June Boca Raton Swim Team Phoenix Meet, DeLuna won all her 13-14 events including the 100-meter freestyle in a best time 1:03.92, dropping 1.85; 100-meter butterfly in 1:08.42; 400-meter individual medley in 5:23.65; 200-meter butterfly in 2:33.99; 100-meter backstroke in 1:12.63; 200 IM in 2:33.84; 200-meter backstroke in a best time 2:28.69, dropping 1.98; 200-meter freestyle in a best time 2:16.85, dropping 3.07; and 100-meter breaststroke in a best time 1:20.13, shaving an impressive 7.85 off her previous best.

“One of my biggest highlights was when I dropped in my 200 back at the Boca meet, I went a 2:28 which is my best time right now,” DeLuna said. “And then the Summer Kickoff at Plantation when I did the 400 IM and beat all the guys.

“I like the competitiveness of the sport and team effort that everyone is always there with you cheering you on,” DeLuna said. “My swim friends are amazing.”

DeLuna was selected to the Florida Gold Coast All-Star team for the July 27-31 USA Swimming Southern Zone Age Group Championships in Tupelo, Miss.

She credits swimming with helping her outside the pool when it comes to time management and discipline.

“I feel like I am way better when it comes to time management,” DeLuna said. “And, my sleep schedule is much more improved since I have mornings and afternoons. I feel swimming makes you aware of everything that’s going on around you. It helps with time management to make sure everything is on point and you don’t miss anything.”

SOFLO head coach Chris Anderson, who coaches Gold Group, has been pleased with her progress and work ethic.

“She’s been doing such a great job as far as attendance especially throughout the summer season,” Anderson said. “She has been very consistent which is why she was given Swimmer of the Month besides the fact her performances were so good and she made zones.

“She is just really focused,” Anderson said. “I think her stepping it up in training, going to the senior program from the age group program, has helped. I think it’s done her well.”

DeLuna is focused on her goals in the sport. “I really want to make Futures cuts for long course and short course,” she said. “And, I really want to swim in college.”

Her big meets coming up are the June 22-25 FGC 14-and-Under Junior Olympics at Sailfish Splash Park in Stuart and July 27-31 Zones in Tupelo, Miss.

Each TYR Swimmer of the Month receives a free TYR backpack.

SOFLO sponsor TYR is a USA manufacturer of recreational and competitive swimwear, caps, goggles, triathlon gear and accessories and one of the nation’s top companies.

TYR, created by athletes, is named for the Norse god of warriors in Germanic mythology. Among its female-sponsored athletes are 2020 Olympians Simone Manuel, Katie Ledecky, Lilly King, Annie Lazor, Ashley Twichell and other elite swimmers Melanie Margalis, Molly Hannis and Kelsi Dahlia.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com