TYR FEBRUARY SWIMMER OF THE MONTH: Alexis Christensen


By Sharon Robb

April 23, 2017—Alexis Christensen gave up mixed martial arts for swimming and she’s so happy she did.

“I used to do mixed martial arts, but I didn’t like it,” she said. “I didn’t like touching a bunch of sweaty boys.”

Christensen, who also did gymnastics, dance and karate, was in an advanced class with high school boys. Her father and brother are also involved in mixed martial arts.

“I did wrestling some times and part of the time I did boxing. I did it for about two years and I got to a stripe green belt but I wanted to do something else.”

Christensen decided to try swimming and signed up with South Florida Aquatic Club eighteen months ago. She knew how to swim underwater and went snorkeling with her family but learned her first freestyle stroke from Coach Carlos. She started at Level 4 in lessons and moved from pre-team to team.

She is currently working with Coach Luis and the Asteroids and making remarkable progress.

“I am a lot happier in swimming,” she said. “I really like it. I love being in the water. I found it peaceful and enjoyable.”

Christensen, 11, a fifth grader at Hawks Bluff Elementary School, is a straight A student who loves to read and write.

In the last three months her progress in the pool has been remarkable.

In the February Panther Invite at Pine Crest, she was ninth in the 500-yard freestyle in 6:21.98; 12th in the 200-yard freestyle in 2:22.22. She swam the 50-yard freestyle in 31.48 and 50-yard backstroke in 36.81.

In the Area 3 Developmental Championships in March, Christensen had some impressive time drops. She was second in the 500-yard freestyle in a best time 6:07.61, bettering her previous best of 6:21.98; third in the 200-yard freestyle in a best time 2:16.77, bettering her 2:22.22 previous best; fourth in the 200-yard backstroke in a best time 2:44.91, lowering her previous best of 2:54.32; and, sixth in the 100-yard backstroke in a best time 1:15.92, dropping from 1:19.06. She also led off SOFLO’s third place 200-yard medley relay that finished third.

At Saturday’s Florida Gold Coast Jupiter Invitational, Christensen had two nice time drops before the meet was cancelled on Sunday because of inclement weather. In the 100-meter backstroke she finished in 1:28.89, a time drop of 14.44 seconds and in the 50-meter freestyle she finished in 34.53, dropping 6.46 seconds. She was also tenth in the 200-meter freestyle in 2:37.84.

“I love the freestyle and backstroke and long distance swims,” Christensen said. “It’s nice and relaxing.

“My goals are to keep dropping times and improving my technique. I would like to move up to the Bronze Group by the time I turn 13.”

Christensen loves her “second family” at SOFLO.

“I love my friends, they encourage me to do better every single day,” she said. “Coach Luis is is wonderful. I think he cares a lot about his swimmers and he is so funny.”

Christensen would like to swim in high school and college. Her long range goal is to swim in the Olympics.

“When I am in the pool, one thing I love about swimming is that I think about nothing else but swimming,” Christensen said. “It’s so peaceful in the water. It gives me peace of mind.

“When I see swimmers in front of me it makes me want to go faster to try and catch them.”

Christensen trains six days a week like most of her teammates. Her 7-year-old brother Preston is taking swim lessons at SOFLO in addition to mixed martial arts.

“I would like him to enjoy swimming as much as I do with my team,” she said.

“I am having fun at the meets. I really enjoyed getting into a few finals. It was cool to see my name on the board. I was a little intimidated by some of the other girls. They were really big. I am 5-2.”

School ends in June for Christensen, who is looking forward to summer training while keeping up her reading.

“I love to read, I am a book worm,” said Christensen, who is currently reading Serafina and the Twisted Staff by Robert Beatty, a former No. 1 New York Times best seller. “I read all the time at practice and swim meets.”

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.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

http://www.swim4soflo.com

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TYR NOVEMBER SWIMMER OF THE MONTH: Yannai Michael


By Sharon Robb

December 26, 2016—Yannai Michael was determined to do well at last month’s Florida Gold Coast Speedo Winter Championships at Plantation Aquatic Complex.

“The meet was hosted by my previous team and I wanted to show how much I improved,” Michael said.

Mission accomplished for the 12-year-old Imagine Charter School seventh grader and Bronze Group member.

Michael had his best short course meet of his young swim life. He competed in eight events in the 11-12 age group.

On a chilly opening night, Michael broke 30 seconds for the first time in the 50-yard butterfly. He finished tenth in a best time 29.54, dropping 1.08 seconds off his previous best of 30.62.

“It was a big deal for Yannai to break 30 seconds, that was a nice swim for him,” said SOFLO head coach Chris Anderson.

Also that night, Michael was fourth in the 50-yard breaststroke in 33.68, another best time with a 0.22 drop.

On Day Two, Michael finished second in the 200-yard breaststroke in 2:31.58, dropping 5:35. Michael was seventh in the 100-yard freestyle in 58.17 after swimming a best time 58.16 in prelims, dropping 0.49.

On Day Three he was second in the 100-yard breaststroke in a best time 1:09.47 and fifth in the 100-yard backstroke in 1:07.66.

On the fourth and final day, Michael swam back-to-back best times in the 200-yard individual medley prelims and finals and finished third in 2:18.17, the first time he cracked the 2:20 mark, dropping 5.25. He was also seventh in the 500-yard freestyle in a best time 5:39.73, dropping 1.79 and anchored the fifth place 200-yard freestyle relay.

Michael finished eighth in the competitive 11-12 high point awards division with 48 points.

“I like to compete, but I always get nervous,” Michael said. “I think I was confident about myself going into this meet. I knew how hard I worked.”

Michael said his most satisfying event was the 200 IM.

“I think because I finished third, I put a lot of effort into that and dropped a lot of time,” he said. “It’s a really special event for me because it combines all the strokes. My race was really exciting because I beat the guy who came in fourth by only 1/100th of a second.”

Michael has been swimming for four and a half years. He has improved since joining SOFLO and working with Coach Rose Lockie and Bronze Group.

“Coach Rose is one of the best coaches I ever had,” Michael said. “She is really fun and really funny. She is always there, whether she is sick or not, to coach us and help out with the team. She’s always pushing me to go faster and faster, pushing me to my limits.

“I know I am improving with SOFLO. There is a really nice team spirit. Every one are good friends and teammates. I am glad I am here.”

Michael competed in taekwondo, tennis and soccer but said “I always loved the water and really liked swimming,” so he committed to swimming.

“It’s a fun sport and you don’t really get injuries,” Michael said. “It helps me stay in shape and healthy because I get to work on my muscles in my legs and arms. It’s a very fun sport.”

His 7-year-old sister Ella swims with the Dippers. “I help her sometimes, but I think overall she is doing pretty good,” Michael said.

Michael is looking forward to Junior Olympics in March. He has five time standards.

“I turn 13 a week before JOs, so I get to swim in a new age group, so that’s going to be kind of exciting,” Michael said.

“My goals are to have fun, make friends and maybe get a college scholarship,” Michael said.

“I like watching swimming. Michael Phelps is someone who inspires me. The fact that he got his first world record when he was only 15 and now he’s old and has so many medals.”

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

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

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

http://www.swim4soflo.com

SOFLO APRIL SWIMMER OF THE MONTH: Alana Acevedo


By Sharon Robb

May 7, 2015—Alana Acevedo has the best of both worlds when it comes to swimming.

The South Florida Aquatic Club age group swimmer said she likes pool swimming and open water swimming equally and is happy to be doing both.

Her passion for open water swimming paid off when she won her 13-14 age group in the LSC All-Star Challenge during the recent Open Water Festival in Fort Myers.

Acevedo, 13, is also doing well in the Super Nova Group. The eighth grade home schooler is progressing nicely in her training and meets.

Acevedo has been swimming since she was 5 years old and loving every minute of it, she said.

“I did soccer for a year,” she said. “I was always the goalie. I did taekwondo. I did gymnastics but I was bad and awkward in it. Swimming I just liked.

“I really like water and being in the water,” Acevedo said. “It’s fun for me. I get to work hard at it and it’s something I am good at it.”

Being home schooled has also allowed her another passion as an equestrian. She is taking horseback riding lessons with hopes of show jumping one day.

“Being home schooled helps my schedule be a bit more flexible so I have time for swimming and horseback riding,” Acevedo said.

Acevedo was pleasantly surprised when she won her biggest open water event. She didn’t expect to place and was already in her street clothes when her mom told her that she was needed at the awards ceremony.

“I was really surprised at the open water meet, I didn’t think it went well,” Acevedo said. “My mom was officiating and told me I had gotten an award and I just looked at her. She kept saying, go, go.

“It was a good experience for me,” Acevedo said. “I like the open water racing. I compete better with a bunch of people around me instead of being in different lanes. I try to keep up with them. I already swim with my head up so it wasn’t something I had to learn.”

She also liked swimming with nature. “I’m not sure but there were either otters or turtles around us,” she said.

Her favorite pool events are the 50 and 100 butterfly and 50 freestyle in long course and 200 butterfly in short course.

“Pool swimming is a lot more competitive,” Acevedo said. “You do dives and turns. In open water you don’t have to worry about that, you can be a bit more free and you can swim whatever stroke you want.”

Acevedo made her senior cut in the 50 butterfly at Junior Olympics going 31.00. She hopes to make a few more this year.

“I’d like to make All-Stars next short course season, too,” Acevedo said.

“The competition in swimming is the best and being able to race your friends it pushes you a lot harder,” Acevedo said. “Racing someone who you know and train with and are friends with makes you a lot more competitive.”

Acevedo is just getting back in the swim of things after injuring her wrist while horseback riding.

“It really helps me keep fit,” she said. “I have to learn not to do too many crazy things like hurt my wrist. I have to be more cautious.”

When asked about her swimming idols, she listed her coaches Bianca Munoz, Travis Locke and Chris Anderson.

“They push me and they know what it’s like to be a swimmer,” Acevedo said. “They have the experience.”

She also loves the fact that both her parents are swim officials.

“It’s nice, I like them around the pool,” Acevedo said. “It helps my swimming because they can watch me from a close distance and point out things I need to improve like getting my head down in the freestyle and my head up in the butterfly.”

Acevedo is training for her next meet at Gulliver and also the open water zone meet in North Carolina.

Acevedo joins March Swimmer of the Month CJ Kopecki, February Swimmer of the Month Zackary Harris and January Swimmer of the Month Madison Johnson.

The SOFLO 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 sha11cats@aol.com

http://www.swim4soflo.com

NIKE MARCH SWIMMER OF THE MONTH: CJ Kopecki


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 sha11cats@aol.com

http://www.swim4soflo.com

NIKE FEBRUARY SWIMMER OF THE MONTH: Zackary Harris


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 sha11cats@aol.com
http://www.swim4soflo

NIKE OCTOBER SWIMMER OF THE MONTH: Sara Quintero


Sara Quintero of South Florida Aquatic Club is the Nike Swimmer of the Month for October.

Quintero, 10, a fifth grader at Sagemont School, is coming off an outstanding month of meets and training at Academic Village Pool.

At Lake Lytal’s Mike Horgan Fall Invitational, Quintero won the 500-yard freestyle breaking the 6-minute barrier in a best time 5:54.08, shaving 8.17 minutes off her previous best of 6:02.25.

Quintero also swam personal bests in the 400-yard individual medley in 5:26.38, 100-yard backstroke in 1:13.53, 200-yard individual medley in 2:33.65 and 100-yard butterfly in 1:09.60.

Quintero was High Point award winner in her age group at the Lake Lytal meet.

At the recent Gulliver Invitational, Quintero swam a best time in the 50-yard freestyle in 30.20 and won the 200-yard freestyle, 100-yard backstroke and 100-yard butterfly.

“I did pretty well,” Quintero said. “It was fun.”

Quintero started swimming when she was four and competing on a swim team at age five. She followed in the footsteps of her older brother, Samuel, now 14, also a top SOFLO age group swimmer.

“My brother started swimming when he was little and my parents thought it would be a good sport for me, too,” Quintero said. “I love it.”

Quintero is going the extra mile to improve her swimming skills every day. On Wednesdays and Fridays she takes ballet and Flamenco dancing and Saturdays two more hours of ballet.

“The dancing helps my swimming,” Quintero said. “Ballet helps me with my leg strength off the wall and blocks better. I have better posture, too.”

Quintero is a member of Bronze Group coached by Rose Lockie.

“Coach Rose is the best,” Quintero said. “She brings out the best in me. She helps me get my head down in the freestyle and butterfly. She works on the things I need to work on in fly kicking more and freestyle getting my head down and pushing off the wall. She is working hard for me to do good.

“I like it when my friends push me a lot in practice,” Quintero said. “They push me if I have a big gap. It inspires me to go for a bigger gap and have a better practice. If my teammates are on my toes in some sets then I try to go faster and I pick up my tempo.”

Swimming has helped Quintero outside the pool as well. She is disciplined, well-organized and makes good grades in school. She has made straight A’s in the last quarter the past two years and is working on getting them consistently. Next year, she is looking forward to joining her high school team as a sixth grader.

“In swimming we have to listen to our sets so we can work better and get better,” Quintero said. “Listening really helps me in school. I follow directions and get better grades.”

Currently, Quintero is training for the upcoming Florida Gold Coast Speedo Winter Championships set for Nov. 20-23 in Plantation. She also is working on her qualifying times for Junior Olympics and making All-Stars.

“I want to try to win a medal at Winter Championships,” Quintero said. “I am going from 10-and-under into 11-12 and those girls might have an advantage, but I would like to try. The medals are big and shiny.”

Quintero loves the fact her brother swims, too. Both are competitive in and out of the pool, she said.

“Inside the pool we are competitive with our times,” Quintero said. “My dad compares our age group times together and we are going the same times and sometimes I go faster. Outside the pool, I get to do things like work on my flexibility. He doesn’t take ballet.”

Quintero is a versatile swimmer. She said her best stroke is the butterfly, her favorite stroke is the freestyle, her best event is the breaststroke and she is good at distance races.

“I just want to get better as a swimmer and I want to work hard to be one,” Quintero said.

Quintero joins other SOFLO Swimmers of the Month sisters Kathleen and Molly Golding for January, Sebastian Sierra for February, Jessica Rodriguez for March, Leonardo Mateus for April, Rafael Rodriguez for May, Valentina Carrion for June, Erika Pelaez for July, Isabella Di Salvo for August and Kellie Wilcox for September.

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 sha11cats@aol.com
http://www.swim4soflo.com

NIKE SEPTEMBER SWIMMER OF THE MONTH: Kellie Wilcox


October 10, 2014

Kellie Wilcox of South Florida Aquatic Club is the Nike Swimmer of the Month for September.

Wilcox, 13, an eighth grader at Silver Trail Middle School in Pembroke Pines, has only been swimming for four years but has made remarkable progress.

Wilcox recently moved up to the Senior Development Group and is working on making her qualifying cuts for the Florida Gold Coast Junior Olympics.

Her introduction to swimming was at a summer camp in Davie.

“I took lessons there and liked it,” Wilcox remembered. “I guess I was pretty good at it. What I liked about it was I didn’t sweat.”

She credits her SOFLO coaches, particularly Rose Lockie, for helping her progress in the sport. The former cheerleader started swimming at SOFLO in 2010.

“It’s mostly been because of my coaches,” Wilcox said. “Coach Rose helped me with my strokes. When I was in Bronze Group I knew I really needed to step up my game.

“I really like the sport,” she said. “It keeps me in shape and I get to hang out with my friends. I can be myself in the water. I made all these friends when I started swimming.”

Her favorite events are the 50-yard backstroke and 100-yard breaststroke.

“I am on the path of becoming better,” said Wilcox, who hopes to swim at West Broward High School next season as a freshman.

Wilcox, who is 5-foot-6 ½, qualified for her first JOs at age 12. She competed in the 50 backstroke, 100 backstroke, 100 freestyle, 200 freestyle, 50 breaststroke and 100 breaststroke.

“I was really excited to be at JOs no matter what happened,” Wilcox said. “I am happy with my swimming. I am training for Winter Championships and trying to make my first JO cut this weekend.”

Wilcox joins other SOFLO Swimmers of the Month sisters Kathleen and Molly Golding for January, Sebastian Sierra for February, Jessica Rodriguez for March, Leonardo Mateus for April, Rafael Rodriguez for May, Valentina Carrion for June, Erika Pelaez for July and Isabella Di Salvo for August.

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 sha11cats@aol.com
http://www.swim4soflo.com