SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: SOFLO’s Wyatt Jennessee’s Journey Will Continue At Birmingham-Southern College

By Sharon Robb

March 7, 2017—Four years ago Wyatt Jennessee started thinking about swimming in college.

“I honestly had just started swimming and I wasn’t that good,” admitted the South Florida Aquatic Club swimmer. “I didn’t know if it was an attainable goal.”

Four years later, Jennessee, 17, committed to swim at Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama. The NCAA Division III program is a member of the Southern Athletic Association.

In February, the men’s program won its third consecutive SAA Championship with a record 1,013.5 points, 271 points ahead of runner-up Centre College. Plantation American Heritage alum Nico Medina, a freshman, was named SAA Newcomer of the Year after winning the 200 and 500 freestyles and 800 free relay.

Jennessee is set to graduate Archbishop McCarthy in May. He is following in the footsteps of another SOFLO swimmer, Matthew Gonzalez, who committed to Birmingham-Southern in 2012. Jennessee said Gonzalez was a great help with advice about the school and men’s swimming program, coached by Toby Wilcox.

“Matt went there and we started talking,” Jennessee said. “He got me in touch with the coach. I went on an official visit and loved it. It’s a good program and the academics are great. The campus is beautiful and the coach is great. He’s done great things up there. He talked to me how great the school was academically.”

Jennessee plans on majoring in Finance and minoring in Economics. He hopes one day to work with the FBI. In addition to focusing on his academics, he is excited to see how far he can get in college swimming after just scratching the surface in high school and club swimming.

Jennessee climbed his way up the ladder at SOFLO. He started out in Senior Development with Bianca Muniz, moved to Gold Group with Travis Lockie and is now working with head coach Chris Anderson with the national group.

Jennessee competes in the 100- and 200 backstroke events and 100 freestyle. He competed all four seasons in high school. His biggest accomplishment was splitting a 49.0 on his high school relay team at regionals. It was the first time he ever went under 50.

“I think I have a lot of potential to continue,” Jennessee. “I am motivated. I just started working in the weight room to get stronger.”

Jennessee, who played tennis and volleyball, was a late starter in swimming at age 12. His sister used to swim.

“I always liked the sport,” he said. “I was looking to do something new. I ended up really liking it.

“My progression happened fairly quickly,” said the 6-foot-2 Jennessee. “I worked with a lot of good coaches who helped me. I was always motivated.

“When I started in senior development I was okay. Everyone has those little lapses. I trained really hard and ended up being one of Coach Travis’ first kids to move up to Gold.

“I really love swimming,” Jennessee said. “You get out of it what you put into it. It’s not like other sports where sometimes you can slide. With swimming if you don’t try your hardest you’re not going to be good.

“I love SOFLO and my time there. I love all the coaches I had there. In college I plan on training as hard as I can. I would like to see how good I can get. I would love to make NCAAs.”

Jennessee is currently training for Senior Championships hosted by SOFLO. His goal is to make senior zones this summer before going off to college.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

South Florida Aquatic Club Shines, Golding Wins Second Gold, Gets Olympic Trials Cut On Final Night Of Inaugural USA Swimming Futures Championships

By Sharon Robb

August 2, 2015—South Florida Aquatic Club ended on a good note on a national stage on the fourth and final night of the inaugural USA Swimming Futures Championships in West Lafayette, Ind.

South Florida Aquatic Club was the top finisher among Florida teams in the combined and women’s team standings.

SOFLO was second among women’s teams with 208 points and fourth in the combined team standings with 270.5 points. Highlander was the top boys finisher placing ninth with 130.

SOFLO’s Kathleen Golding, 14, won her second title sweeping the individual medley events and is going to the U.S. Olympic Trials next year in Omaha, Neb.

After winning the 400 IM in a lifetime-best 4:55.80, Golding won the 200 IM in 2:18.67, also a best time. She first bettered her previous best of 2:21.43 in prelims in 2:20.39 and dropped even more time in finals for a combined 2.76-second drop. Even better, it was Golding’s first U.S. Olympic Trials cut.

South Florida Aquatic Club was third in the 400-meter medley relay in 4:22.22 with Marcella Marinheiro, Jessica Rodriguez, Kathleen Golding and Melissa Marinheiro.

Golding was also 11th in the 100-meter freestyle in 58.49.

Kelley Heron was 11th in the 200-meter backstroke in 2:22.03.

Melissa Marinheiro was fifth in the 1500-meter freestyle in 17:24.34.

Julien Pinon was seventh in the 100-meter freestyle in 52.85.

Ervin Marin was tenth in the 200-meter individual medley in 2:11.18.

The Futures Championships are a trio of meets in Greensboro, N.C., Mt. Hood, Ore. and West Lafayette, Ind.

The meets are designed to bridge the gap between Sectionals and Junior Nationals enabling swimmers not qualified for Junior Nationals to compete in their own meet.


COMBINED TEAM TOTALS: 1. Boilermaker Aquatics 491, 2. Columbia Swim Club 424, 3. Indiana University Swim Team 350.5, 4. South Florida Aquatic Club 270.5, 5. Stingrays 251, 13. Highlander 188, 16. Swim Fort Lauderdale 120, 18. Southwest Stars Swim Club 95, 21. Area Tallahassee 82, 25. Miami Swimming 70, 33. Gulliver Swim Club 48, 39. Unattached Florida Gold Coast 42, 66. Tampa Bay 9.

WOMEN TEAM TOTALS: 1. Columbia Swim Club 230.5, 2. South Florida Aquatic Club 208, 3. University of Kentucky Swim Team 200, 4. Boilermaker 132, 5. Indiana University Swim Team 129, 7. Swim Fort Lauderdale 120, 11. Southwest Stars Swim Club 95, 17. Miami Swimming 70, 20. Highlander 58, 29. Gulliver 33, 32. Area Tallahassee 31, 45. Tampa Bay 9.

MEN TEAM TOTALS: 1. Boilermaker 359, 2. Indiana University Swim Team 221.5, 3. Columbia 193.5, 4. Dynamo 179.5, 5. Memphis Thunder 174.5, 9. Highlander 130, 15. South Florida Aquatic Club 62.5, 18. Area Tallahassee 51, 22. Unattached Florida Gold Coast 42, 36. Gulliver 15.


100-meter freestyle: 1. Geena Freriks, UKY 56.70, 2. Kaitlyn Schorr, STAR 56.84, 3. Kobie Melton, HAS 57.30; FLORIDA: 11. Kathleen Golding, SOFLO 58.49, 14. Dorothy Morgan, Miami Swimming 58.50. 58.65, 16. Abigail Burke, Highlander 58.91/58.92, 18. Kyla Valls, Miami Swimming 58.69/59.12, 19. Catharine Cooper, Coral Springs Swim Club 58.75/59.41, 36. Sofia Bernard, STAR 1:00.00, 45. Kelly Harrington, Boca Raton Swim Team 1:00.42, 46. Paige Hamilton, Highlander 1:00.46, 60. Andie Myers, Highlander 1:01.29, 68. Eleanor Pollitt, LA 1:02.19, 69. Chloe Grimme, FE 1:02.20.

200-meter backstroke: 1. Kelly Leonard, RIPT 2:16.99, 2. Kayla Churman, UKY 2:17.66, 3. Emma Gourdie, MPSC 2:17.90; FLORIDA: 11. Kelley Heron, SOFLO 2:22.03, 16. Amanda Tipton, Swim Fort Lauderdale 2:23.63/2:23.37, 17. Megan Schimansky, Coral Springs 2:23.02/2:24.05, 19. Spencer Lucas, Highlander 2:23.58/2:24.31, 28. Marcella Marinheiro, SOFLO 2:24.88, 35. Kara Wilkins, Unattached 2:25.94, 61. Chloe Hampson, Highlander 2:40.40.

200-meter individual medley: 1. Kathleen Golding, SOFLO 2:18.67, 2. Allison Kopas, Swim Fort Lauderdale 2:21.35, 3. Carolyn Jungers, SSTY 2:21.74; FLORIDA: 19. Elizabeth Zubero, Swim Fort Lauderdale 2:24.63/2:25.74; 20. Paige Hamilton, Highlander 2:24.69; 24. Kelley Heron, SOFLO 2:25.28/2:25.29, 27. Kaitlyn Schorr, STAR 2:26.68, 28. Amanda Tipton, Swim Fort Lauderdale 2:26.74, 29. Samantha Schieffelin, STAR 2:27.13, 40. Spencer Lucas, Highlander 2:28.04, 41. Caroline Cooper, Highlander 2:28.11, 52. Pakawadee Sopapong, Tampa Bay 2:29.56, 54. Colleen Driscoll, Tampa Bay 2:29.67, 59. Jessica Rodriguez, SOFLO 2:30.02, 60. Lauren Peavy, ATAC 2:30.65, 70. Alexa Kalandiak, Miami Swimming 2:33.42, 79. Caitlin Ahern, Swim Fort Lauderdale 2:35.61.

1500-meter freestyle: 1. Kelly Berger, UKY 17:07.03, 2. Emily Meckstroth, STAR 17:10.97, 3. Alicia Mancilla, Gulliver 17:20.31; FLORIDA: 5. Melissa Marinheiro, SOFLO 17:24.34, 6. Stephanie Holmes, ATAC 17:24.43, 12. Alixandra Ro, Highlander 17:48.09.

400-meter medley relay: 1. Swim Fort Lauderdale 4:20.44 (Amanda Tipton, Caitlin Ahern, Elizabeth Zubero, Allison Kopas), 2. Miami Swimming 4:22.19 (Dorothy Morgan, Anna Valls, Alexa Kalandiak, Kyla Valls), 3. South Florida Aquatic Club 4:22.22 (Marcella Marinheiro, Jessica Rodriguez, Kathleen Golding, Melissa Marinheiro), 15. Highlander 4:31.88, 17. Southwest Stars 4:32.13.


100-meter freestyle: 1. Michael Dugan, RAYS 51.45, 2. Christopher Kearney, COHO 51.90, 3. John Stephens, BA 51.93; FLORIDA: 7. Julien Pinon, SOFLO 52.85, 33. Andrew Dupont, Highlander 54.21, 34. Derek Peeples, LAS 54.27, 40. John Yambor-Maul, ATAZ 54.52, 42. Ryan Capote, SOFLO 54.57, 47. Corbin Cooper, Highlander 54.79.

200-meter backstroke: 1. Jacob Thomas, BA 2:03.81, 2. Samuel Marlow, RSCA 2:06.17, 3. Tucson Dunn, SCAT 2:06.49; FLORIDA: 12. Calvin Lillo, Highlander 2:10.25/2:11.58, 20. David Perez, Highlander 2:13.27/2:14.08, 24. Derek Peeples, LAS 2:14.61.

200-meter individual medley: 1. Sam Iida, GTAC 2:06.04, 2. Adam Kastigar, ASC 2:06.53, 3. Hudson Bursch, STAR 2:08.31; FLORIDA: 10. Ervin Marin, SOFLO 2:11.18/2:11.37, 15. Sean Arrington, Unattached 2:12.79/2:12.37; 16. Calvin Lillo, Highlander 2:12.10/2:14.05; 18. Marc Rojas, SOFLO 2:10.55/2:12.97, 34. Jose Pascual, Coral Springs 2:15.10, 55. Rafaele Chambasian, ATAC 2:19.46, 61. Jonathan Oliva, Gulliver 2:22.38.

800-meter freestyle: 1. Nathan Hopkins, BA 8:24.32, 2. William Bresette, ESC 8:25.07, 3. Hayden Curley, Highlander 8:28.41; FLORIDA: 6. Brandon Chason, ATAC 8:31.93, 7. Christopher Holmes, ATAC 8:32.11, 3.

400-meter medley relay: 1. Dynamo 3:53.20, 2. Boilermaker Aquatics 3:54.17, 3. Indiana University Swim Team 3:54.29, 8. Highlander 3:59.10 (Calvin Lillo, Joshua Monacelli, Corbin Cooper, Andrew Dupont), 11. South Florida Aquatic Club 4:00.79 (Ryan Capote, Marc Rojas, CJ Kopecki, Ervin Marin).

Sharon Robb can be reached at





High School: West Broward

College: New York University

Amber Hunter said goodbye to her second family last week.

The longtime Comets Swim Team and South Florida Aquatic Club swimmer left for college and next chapter in her life.

“Today was my last official practice with SOFLO,” Hunter wrote on her Facebook page.

“I can’t even begin to say how thankful I am to have been a part of such an amazing team for the past ten years.

“The pool became my home and my teammates became my family. I’ll miss it incredibly but I’m excited for what the future has in store.”

Hunter started swimming with the Comets ten years ago. She was a top butterflier, ranked among the state’s Top 75 swimmers and was one of the club’s Nike Swimmers of the Month.

“Ten years is a long time,” Hunter said. “It’s hard to remember not swimming and being around everybody.”

She got her introduction to the pool when her mom Terri signed her up for lessons at a Pennsylvania pool. When she and her family moved to South Florida, she joined the Comets.

“I guess I liked it and we continued,” Hunter said.

“When we first moved to Florida I really enjoyed the sport,” Hunter said. “I did a few other sports (soccer and softball) but I stuck with swimming.”

The hard part for Hunter during the team’s annual banquet and her final week of practice with her longtime teammates and coaches was knowing it was probably all for the last time, at least until the holiday break.

“I’m not really saying goodbye, I know I will see them,” Hunter said. “I will keep in touch with my close friends and will be able to see how they are doing. It’s not a serious goodbye, I know I will be back.

“I know it will be a change for sure. It is bittersweet. I am going off to college with bigger goals but I am leaving SOFLO/Comets where I got my start.”

When Hunter started searching for colleges, academics was always the priority for the aspiring writer. She would like to write fiction novels and get involved with publishing and editing other novels.

“Academics was the first thing I wanted and I wanted a college that had the major I wanted,” she said.

“NYU did offer Division 3 swimming and has a sanctioned team,” Hunter said. “I have the best of both worlds with academics and swimming.

“Division 3 is a little bit of a different atmosphere. There is less stress on swimmers. It’s for swimmers who want to be there since there are no swimming scholarships.”

Hunter has plenty of memories from club and high school swimming. Her sophomore year West Broward had a strong 400-yard freestyle relay. “That was a fun relay to race at state,” she said.

“My senior year I made state in the 100 butterfly and finished tenth, second in consolations,” Hunter said. “I didn’t get the times I wanted exactly but I had a lot of fun.

“Swimming really helped me learn a lot of lessons when I was growing up. I learned how to manage my time and about dedication. I think that’s why I stayed in the sport so long. I was focused on my goals and putting in the work paid off in the end.

“It was a lot of fun being part of a team. The team dynamic was great and so was the atmosphere. It was a great thing to be able to stay with a team for so long. I know I am going far away but I am looking forward to the challenge and starting the next chapter of my life.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at




High School: Pembroke Pines Charter

College: St. Leo University

When Astrid Rigau leaves for college in August, saying goodbye to her “second family” at South Florida Aquatic Club will not be easy.

After seven years with the successful Florida Gold Coast club, Rigau made friends with swimmers and coaches while making memories that will last a lifetime.

Even with all the social media available and her scrapbook of photos that the talented photographer has taken through the years, it will still be hard.

“I have already started crying,” Rigau said.

“I went to Charter School since elementary school and it is mostly the same kids. I’ve watched all these swimmers like Alfredo Mesa grow up. They are my brothers and sisters and it will be emotional letting them go. How many months have I been seeing them twice a day? How can they not be family?”

Rigau, a successful high school and club swimmer, will be attending St. Leo University, the oldest Catholic college in Florida and sixth largest in the United States. St. Leo is an NCAA Division II school and competes in the Sunshine State Conference. The Lions are coached by Paul Mangen.

Rigau is following in the footsteps of SOFLO teammate Bianca Muniz, who recently graduated from St. Leo with three school records as anchor swimmer on the 200 and 400 freestyle relays and 400 medley relay. Rigau will join Heritage Aquatic Team swimmer and junior Chantal Boutillier on the St. Leo roster.

Rigau has been swimming with SOFLO for seven years.

“I would wake up at 4 in the morning for 5 a.m. practice, go to school, then afternoon practice and get home at 7,” Rigau said.

“Doing the senior videos for the banquet I was saying goodbye and started crying. I would do everything for my teammates. My room is dedicated to swimming. Honestly, they have been my life, training with them, going out as a team. Even when we are away from the pool we hang out. We all grew up together.”

It seems like only yesterday when Rigau’s mom signed her up for swim lessons after a close call in the pool.

“My parents had a scare when I was 3-years-old,” Rigau remembered. “A family friend pushed me into the deep end of the pool at one of our houses. I grew up in Puerto Rico and I was always around water so she put me in lessons.”

Rigau has always been athletic. She was involved in ballet and dance. When she was in middle school, she tried out for the Comets Swim team and was among 20 swimmers out of 100 who made the cut.

“I had every coach through the years,” she said. “I was in Meteorites, Asteroids and Bronze Group. The kids at school were on the swim team and that made it fun.

“I had a few injuries but no matter what happened I still came back. Something always brought me back.”

Rigau is excited about the next chapter of her life at St. Leo.

“I didn’t think about swimming for a college until my junior year,” she said. “Then I went on a field trip to all six public schools in Florida. I had been to St. Leo for swim camps and meets. Every time I was there I saw the coach and all the swimmers knew me and treated me like Bianca’s little sister. It’s an amazing group.

“I never thought I would be swimming in college. Look at me I am swimming in Division 2,” Rigau said. “I am really thankful to all my coaches for helping me get there.”

Rigau would love to represent Puerto Rico in international competition but wants to see how she does at the college level.

Her most memorable high school swimming moments during her four-year career was Pembroke Pines Charter winning three district team titles and swimming at regions every year.

“I was honored Coach Rose was one of my coaches. I know I gave her a hard time, I admit that,” Rigau said.

“Club swimming was great. The highlights would be doing a best time and winning Senior Championships in our home pool. The experience of being on SOFLO was the highlight of my life already.”

Rigau is expected to make an impact at St. Leo. She will swim the 50- and 100-yard freestyle, 100 butterfly or 200 individual medley and relays.

“With SOFLO as a building block I know I am going to improve,” she said.

Sharon Robb can be reached at




High School: Hialeah Gardens

College: Florida International University

Maria Lopez is ready to start the next chapter of her young life.

The South Florida Aquatic Club swimmer will celebrate an outstanding year with family and friends at the club’s annual banquet this weekend.

After that, the USA Swimming Scholastic All-American will continue her swimming career at Florida International University in August.

“I liked everything about the school,” Lopez said. “One of the most important things was my major which is finance. FIU has one of the top business schools in the country and that was really important to me.”

The fast-rising NCAA Division I swim program was another plus.

FIU, coached by Randy Horner, is coming off its finest season in the program’s history. FIU finished second in its debut at the Conference USA Championships. Making its’ third NCAA Championship appearance, FIU scored for the first time and finished 47th.

“The group of girls were so friendly and nice and really welcoming,” Lopez said. “What more could you ask?

“I was okay with going away to college but I am glad I found this school,” said Lopez, who will be living on her own for the first time on-campus. “It has everything I was looking for in a college and it’s close to home.

“I had the mindset that I wanted to leave and go away to college,” Lopez said. “When I actually got to the point of deciding, it was tough. It’s not easy to just go away for school. I am so happy with FIU. It’s beautiful.

“The coach is excited that me and the nine girls coming in all have pretty fast times,” Lopez said. “He thinks we will make a huge impact on the team.”

Lopez expects to swim the 100- and 200-yard butterfly events and 50-yard freestyle along with relays.

It will be bittersweet for Lopez during the banquet to relive great memories her six years with the club.

“I am so excited for the banquet, I have been looking forward to it all week,” Lopez said. “I am excited to be with my friends. Even though I will come back in the summer, it gets to you. This team is my family. I see them every single day. I can be 100 percent myself with them.

“Swimming has played such a huge role in my life, swimming is my life,” Lopez said. “I would be a completely different person if it wasn’t for swimming. I am healthy and I am happy.”

Lopez started to swim at age 8 because of chronic bronchitis. She has had no breathing problems since.

While Lopez has had several outstanding individual accomplishments, she takes pride in being a team player and enjoying her teammates’ successes.

“I have been able to connect with other people,” she said. “It’s not only about my own goals but my teammates goals. I see people work so hard in the pool and think wow, everyone on this team really wants to be good. It’s that team connection.”

One of her most satisfying moments in the pool was going a career-best 2:03 in the 200-yard butterfly in prelims of Florida Gold Coast Senior Championships in her home pool.

“I got out of that race and was so happy,” Lopez said. “It was exciting. It was one of the last big meets for me at our pool. I trained really hard for that meet and I am training even harder now.”

Another major accomplishment was being named to the USA Swimming Scholastic All-American team. Lopez has a 4.0 GPA and was ranked among top swimmers in the 100- and 200-meter butterfly, 200 individual medley and 400 freestyle.

Born in Havana, Cuba, Lopez qualified for the state high school meet as young as her freshman year.

Lopez said she has short and long term goals for the next chapter in her swimming. She would like to break records and qualify for NCAAs. She is also working towards a national cut. “I basically want to enjoy these next four years,” Lopez said.

Lopez has her sights set on breaking the FIU school record in the 200-yard butterfly (2:00.31) held by Marina Ribi and pool record (2:01.63) held by Christie Raleigh of Florida State.

Lopez is one of seven seniors who will be honored during SOFLO’s annual banquet at the Signature Grand in Davie on Saturday. Other seniors are Kaitlin Armstrong, Amber Hunter, Astrid Rigau, Bowie Suen, Olivia Katcher and Kry Nichlany.

By Sharon Robb,

SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: Kaitlin Armstrong

SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: Kaitlin Armstrong

SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: Kaitlin Armstrong

High School: Archbishop McCarthy

College: Lynn University

For nine years, Kaitlin Armstrong has worked hard in the pool and in the classroom and it’s paid off.

Armstrong is the first swimmer from South Florida Aquatic Club to sign with the women’s program at Lynn University in Boca Raton.

The school added women’s swimming to its NCAA Division II athletic program in February, 2012. The program made its debut in October 13, 2012 in a Sunshine State Conference tri-meet against St. Leo and Florida Tech.

Lynn’s head coach is Niki Alvarez was a men’s and women’s assistant swim coach for eight years at Florida Atlantic. The team trains on-campus at the newly-renovated West Pool at McCusker Sports Complex.

“I just really liked the coach and the campus,” Armstrong said. “All the girls were nice. I liked the fact that it was a smaller team and there were three coaches and the swimmers get a lot of attention.”

Armstrong first visited the campus after the Florida Gold Coast Senior Championships. She visited other schools in the north before making her decision.

“I wanted to stay close to home,” she said. “I couldn’t see myself 5,000 miles away.

Armstrong expects to swim the 50- and 100-yard freestyle events and relays and is “looking to make an impact” her freshman year.

Armstrong met with Alvarez during a Lynn home swim meet.

“I talked to Coach Niki and told her that I wanted to commit to Lynn if she still had a spot open and she said, of course,” Armstrong said. “I was really happy. My mom got a little emotional.”

Armstrong swam all four years during her high school career for the Mavericks and worked with SOFLO coach Megan Garland, head coach at Archbishop McCarthy.

Swimming was a challenge at first when she was little.

“When I was younger I actually never wanted to put my face in the water,” Armstrong said. “When I got older I saw a flyer for the Comets. The pool was only three minutes from my house. I wanted to try out. I loved it. I liked all the coaches and the facility was really nice. I just stuck with it.”

One of her shining moments in the pool was qualifying for the state meet in the 50-yard freestyle as a senior. She still has plenty of goals including dropping more time and qualifying for nationals.

“I worked really hard for a long time,” she said. “I really enjoy it.”

Armstrong is one of seven seniors who will be honored during SOFLO’s annual banquet at the Signature Grand in Davie on Saturday. Other seniors are Amber Hunter, Maria Lopez, Astrid Rigau, Bowie Suen, Olivia Katcher and Kry Nichlany.

By Sharon Robb,

2013 SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: Daniela Jimenez

2013 SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: Daniela Jimenez

Age: 17

High School: Hialeah Gardens

College: University of South Florida

Ever since she set foot in a pool ten years ago, Daniela Jimenez has loved to swim.

“I started swimming in classes because my mom wanted me to be water-safe,” Jimenez said.

“I liked it and I told my mom I wanted to stay.”

Daniela’s twin sister, Evelin, followed her to the pool and started swimming with her. The sisters swam on their high school team and South Florida Aquatic Club and now are planning to attend University of South Florida.

Daniela Jimenez has been swimming with SOFLO for nearly two years.

“The reason I transferred teams is I wasn’t being pushed hard enough on my old team,” Jimenez said. “The coach wasn’t as motivating as the one here and I liked being on this team.

“I saw improvement in my swimming right away,” Jimenez said. “My times got better and I got stronger. I got more mentally prepared for races here and I feel better as a person and athlete.”

Jimenez enjoyed both high school and club swimming. She said her biggest moment during high school season was when she won districts in the 500-yard freestyle in a record time. In club swimming, it was making finals at senior championships.

“Swimming taught me how to be a team player and to be more dependent,” Jimenez said.

Jimenez plans on majoring in biology and pre-med and hopes to be a pediatrician working with kids stricken with cancer. “I love working with kids,” she said.

She hopes to swim on the college’s club team when not studying. She hopes to return to SOFLO during college break and holidays.

“SOFLO is my second family,” Jimenez said. “I love it. I am here all the time. Even outside the pool we hang out and go to the movies. I love this team.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at

2013 SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: Roger Capote

2013 SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: Roger Capote

Age: 17

High school: American Senior High School/Miami Lakes Educational Center

College: Florida International University

When he was little, Roger Capote tried several different sports before he narrowed his choice to swimming.

“I was jumping around from sport to sport to see which one I liked the most,” Capote said.

Capote played baseball and was in karate classes.

“I didn’t like them as much as swimming, it was second nature to me,” Capote said. “I found swimming very therapeutic and relaxing, and it was competitive. It was everything I needed to keep in shape.”

Capote started swimming at age 9 with a community team and joined the Comets Swim Team when he was 12. He has been with the South Florida Aquatic Club ever since.

Capote competes in the breaststroke and distance events. When asked what his favorite event was he replied “that’s hard to choose, probably either the mile or 200 breaststroke.

“I have a strong mind so I love distance,” Capote said. “It’s unpredictable. You can make a mistake in distance but you can make it up in the next couple laps because you have a little bit of time. In the 50 freestyle, one mistake can cost you the race.

“On top of that, I get that good feeling when swimmers are right next to me. That last 50 it’s a really good feeling and it gives me more energy to get up ahead of the pack.”

Capote said his most memorable and proudest moments in swimming was when he placed third overall in the Swim Miami Open Water 10K and winning high school districts in the 500-yard freestyle for American High School.

Capote said he plans to continue to train with SOFLO when he starts classes in the fall at FIU where he plans to study sports medicine.

“Swimming has definitely changed me,” Capote said. “I learned leadership, discipline and time management, a whole list of everything. I don’t know what I would have done without swimming. My friends at SOFLO definitely helped, too.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at

2013 SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: Evelin Jimenez

2013 SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: Evelin Jimenez

Age: 17

High School: Hialeah Gardens

College: University of South Florida

Evelin Jimenez was born to swim.

She started swimming in learn-to-swim classes and competing when she was 7.

“I was bored so I stayed in swimming after I learned,” Jimenez said. “Ever since I started I loved it.

“It was something new for me to try out,” Jimenez said. “I liked the feel of the water and the way I moved with it. It was a good experience for me.”

The Miami-born Jimenez also loved the sport’s social factor. She switched clubs and started training with the South Florida Aquatic Club three years ago.

“I made friends in swimming and through those friends I found SOFLO,” said Jimenez, whose twin Daniela also swims for SOFLO. “They encouraged me and I started improving.

“I am going to miss being able to come here all the time. SOFLO has been like a family to me. I am also excited to graduate and move on.”

Jimenez competed in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle and butterfly races and loved the sprint events, she said. Among her swim highlights were the Orlando Grand Prix and her junior and senior year at the high school state meet.

“I felt good about the quality of my races and my improvement,” Jimenez said.

Jimenez also loved the fact her sister was on the same team.

“We didn’t really swim the same events,” she said. “If we were in the same event, we were a little competitive. I would try to pass her and she would try to pass me. It was fun. It was nice having someone to share swimming with, experiencing the same things at the same time.”

Jimenez hopes to continue swimming at USF at the club level to stay in shape. She will be taking pre-med and biology her first year and plans to focus on her studies.

“I want to be a doctor and I chose USF because it has a good medical program,” Jimenez said.

Sharon Robb can be reached at




Age: 17

High school: Everglades

College: Daytona Beach State College

Xavier Brown is living his dream.

He is going to college on a swimming scholarship.

At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, with athleticism and unlimited potential, Brown is a coach’s dream. After weighing his options from several out-of-state colleges, Brown signed with Daytona Beach State College and will be leaving in August for the next chapter in his academic and athletic life.

Brown started swimming less than five years ago and has only scratched the surface in the sport.

“Choosing a college was a long process,” Brown said. “I went back and forth between about five schools and scholarships that were offered to me.

“I decided Daytona was the best fit for me. The coach was impressed by my drive and where I wanted to take my swimming. I have high aspirations for myself and he is willing to work with me.”

Plus, staying in Florida will enable friends and families to travel to his college home meets.

Brown became a role model when he chose swimming over track and field to help dispel the stereotype that has plagued black athletes for years in swimming.

Brown never had the benefit of competitive swimming in elementary, or middle school. He made districts and regionals his sophomore year at Miramar. But he built his swimming career solely through club swimming with the Comets and South Florida Aquatic Club programs in Pembroke Pines.

Brown attended Miramar High School for two seasons but the swim team disbanded. He transferred to Everglades that also dropped its swim program for financial reasons and lack of interest. In track, he competed in the 200, 800 and mile.

“I’ve always felt swimming chose me from everything,” Brown said. “All the sports I have done I was trying out to get the feel for what I actually loved. Swimming stood out for me. I picked it up naturally.

“I thought swimming was one of those sports that if I worked hard enough maybe I could start dreaming about going to college. I started swimming 4 ½ years. I love the water and I love swimming. I want to see how far this can take me.”

After a five-month break last year when he got a job, Brown returned to workouts. He said his biggest accomplishment was “getting back in the pool.” He has been able to drop more than 20 seconds off his event times.

“I have been surprising myself every time I get in the pool,” Brown said.

His biggest breakthrough came at the Texas A&M Senior Circuit Meet.

“It was the first time for me being in a natatorium,” Brown said. “I was actually getting the feeling of being at a college level meet. Coach Chris Anderson was such an inspiration for me. He told me what I had to focus on, what I had to work on and harness. He told me how to get better and be a better swimmer. I was really motivated after that.”

Brown is also enjoying his role of breaking the “black athletes stereotype.” He has been a role model in and out of the pool.

“I don’t mind being a role model,” he said. “I think I am ready to take that on. Looking at Alia Atkinson and being with Chris has helped me. I have learned more than enough from Alia. I am ready to take the role on as a black role model in swimming.

“I want people to look up to black athletes in sports like swimming. I like it when a little black kid watched me at a meet and comes up to me and says ‘great race.’ If he sees that I can do it, he can do it, too.”

Brown has narrowed his majors to political science or sports management. He will continue training through the summer and will compete with SOFLO at the June 21-24 FLA International Invitational at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton where he hopes to drop more time.

His goals are lofty for college swimming. He would like to break school records in the 50- and 100-yard freestyles. He may also swim the 200-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke. He would also like to qualify for the NJCAA Championships where Brown will reunite with club teammate Marc Rojas, a Pembroke Pines Charter alum who signed with national champion Indian River State College.

The Miami-born Brown is looking forward to improving. “I want to see how far I can go,” Brown said. “That’s the next challenge.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at