WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
Teenagers Anne Kuczynski and Brandon Goldman of the South Florida Aquatic Club were looking for a confidence-builder like the Texas Senior Circuit Swimming Meet at Texas A&M.
After a Monday morning workout in College Station, Tex. , the promising 15-year-olds, like many of their SOFLO teammates, will return home brimming with confidence and motivated for the future.
In its national debut, SOFLO placed fifth among 24 teams and finished ahead of several larger and more-established teams.
On Sunday, the final day of competition, Goldman posted back-to-back career-best times (1:04.31 and 1:03.89) in the 100-meter backstroke. Kuczynski posted a career-best 36.90 in the 50-meter breaststroke.
Over three days, Kuczynski managed to final in nearly every one of her events with best or near-best times including her 200 breaststroke which she dropped from 2:51.80 to 2:49.54. She hit every goal time she set with her coach to swim by the end of the season.
The younger sister of Caroline Kuczynski, 19, the team’s top performer of the meet, like the rest of the 15-member team, was not rested or tapered for the meet and coming off heavy training.
“I wasn’t really expecting this because we have been training pretty hard,” Anne Kuczynski said. “At the beginning of the year, Michael (Lohberg) had us do our goal times. I made all of them in this meet so I am pretty happy.”
Kuczynski called the meet “a turning point” in her young career.
“I am excited about the years to come,” Kuczynski said. “I am a sophomore in high school but I am already thinking about college. I know I can get faster for college. I liked this meet. It makes me feel better about myself. I want to go home, train extra hard and do better.”
Watching her older sister was a little added inspiration.
“She is my inspiration,” Anne said. “She is my hero. She swims so fast all the time. She is the star in the family. She gives me tips. She’s kind of like a second coach.”
Goldman is equally motivated for the future after competing in his second Texas Senior Circuit meet. Goldman did well in both individual and relay events.
“I was here to get experience and have fun,” Goldman said. “I didn’t have any high expectations. If I swam well, great; if not, it is the beginning of the season.
“I didn’t put that much pressure on myself. I wanted to be around my best times so I am happy I was even able to get best times. I was really happy with my 400 IM, I dropped three seconds.
“It’s exciting when you gain experience and drop some more time. I am kind of surprised I did so well. I thought I would be real tired. I got here, felt good in the water and expected to swim well after that. This was a real confidence-booster. I am going to keep doing what I am doing, it seems to be working.”
SOFLO national team assistant coach Kathleen Prindle said the meet served its purpose.
“There were many goals for the meet,” Prindle said. “We wanted to give the younger kids more exposure. The more experience they get the better off they are and better prepared for the bigger meets.
“This meet was a wait-and-see. We had gotten into hard training and this was the first test of how are we doing. It was a fun training meet.”
Marc Rojas, 16, turned in two career-best times on the same day in the 200-meter individual medley (2:19.71) and 50-meter breaststroke (32.37).
Jenna Moodie, 15, rekindled her love affair for the 100- and 200-meter freestyle events. She dropped nine seconds in the 200 freestyle.
“I was happy with both of them,” Moodie said. “I was having a mental thing with them before but I picked them up again and doing a lot better.
“The coaches told us not to expect anything because we have been working out so hard. I was so sore I couldn’t move on Tuesday.
“Even though I wasn’t tapered I made mostly best times,” Moodie said. “I am happy with that. It was a fun meet for sure. It’s nice to get that race experience. I am excited about getting back and training harder.”
The meet was also a great opportunity for swimmers to bond under the new SOFLO logo.
“Our team is definitely coming together, it was nice to finish fifth,” Moodie said. “Usually there are a lot of teams and we would score points here and there. At this meet we had somebody almost in every final.”
In other final night action:
Two-time Olympian Alia Atkinson, 21, of Texas A&M who grew up swimming with the Comets and was competing for her college’s club team, won the 50-meter breaststroke in 33.34. SOFLO’s Melissa Cooper, 17, was third in 34.09. Brittney Phelan, 17, was fourth in 34.86. Anne Kuczynski was 11th in 36.45 and Lucia Morris, 18th in 38.00.
Atkinson and Cooper also swam a 200-meter breaststroke time trial. Atkinson finished in 2:35.53 and Cooper in 2:54.76.
In the men’s 50-meter breaststroke, Alex Rodriguez, 19, was ninth in 31.15.
Caroline Kuczynski finished fourth in the women’s 200-meter butterfly in 2:19.35. Her previous best was 2:21.97. Kuczynski also finished ninth in the 200 individual medley in 2:23.13, another best time. Her previous best was 2:24.99.
In the men’s 200 butterfly, Luke Torres was eighth in 2:13.25 after swimming a career-best 2:10.08 in prelims.
Also in the 200 butterfly, Ryan O’Shaughnessy, 19, was tenth in 2:13.57 after swimming 2:14.63 in prelims, both career bests, bettering his seed time of 2:17.20. O’Shaughnessy was 15th in the 200 IM in 2:17.55.
Zain Qali, 22, was 18th in the 200 butterfly in 2:15.64. Tyler Sell was 22nd in 2:20.85.
In the women’s 800-meter freestyle, Emma Lincoln, 14, finished 27th in 9:42.38 and Leonie Davies, 13, was 32nd in a career-best 9:52.74. Her previous best was 10:13.99.
In another time trial, Rojas swam 2:42.96 in the 200-meter breaststroke.
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org