The City of Pembroke Pines Academic Village Pool and Training Center is in the final stages of much-needed renovation and expansion.

The $320,000 bond project that includes work on the aquatic facility, is scheduled to be completed by the end of April, according to Chuck Vones, City of Pembroke Pines Parks and Recreation assistant director.


The City of Pembroke Pines Academic Village Pool and Training Center is in the final stages of much-needed renovation and expansion.

The $320,000 bond project that includes work on the aquatic facility, is scheduled to be completed by the end of April, according to Chuck Vones, City of Pembroke Pines Parks and Recreation assistant director.

The project, mainly funded by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and matching bond money, also includes refurbishing and upgrades of the basketball courts, soccer and football fields, tennis courts, track, boardwalk and nature area.

While the community is looking forward to every facet of the upgrades, it’s the pool deck expansion and renovation that has Comets parents, swimmers and coaches excited.

The timing couldn’t be more perfect with the recent announcement of the Comets merger with the Coral Springs Swim Club and formation of the South Florida Aquatic Club.

The improvements include pool deck expansion by 65 percent, stadium lighting, cost-effective Geothermal heating and cooling for the pool, parent seating area with easy access, bleacher seating for fans, crossfit exercise and dryland stations and brick donation walkway have been in the works since the project was approved in 2007.

The additional room will provide a safer environment and allow athletes to do more dryland training in the pool area.

Now that the dream has become reality, the improvements will only help to enhance and maintain the successful program, Vones said.

“The swim program and meets have been very successful,” Vones said. “These were improvements that needed to be done. They just outgrew the pool deck. It’s definitely a sign of growth and success. We are very excited about the completion of the project. We have had lots of people working on it.”

Comets head coach and CEO Chris Anderson has been involved with the improvements since Day One with the help from a large supporting cast that includes Dean Combs, City of Pembroke Pines Parks and Recreation Director; Vones; Greg Groselle, City of Pembroke Pines Aquatics Coordinator; the City of Pembroke Pines Commission; Mayor Frank Ortis; city manager Charles F. Dodge and members of the Comets Swim Team.

“This will provide a better training environment,” Anderson said. “Our team has grown so much. It’s what the kids need.”

The crossfit exercise stations on the pool deck will feature spinning bikes and indoor-outdoor exercise mats. While swimmers train, parents can get a little exercise in while watching their children in the pool. The cost of the workout area was underwritten by USA Swimming’s Silver Medal Grant program.

Other funding was raised by the City of Pembroke Pines, Anderson Aquatics LLC, Comets Swim Team Booster Club and Comets Swim Team Alumni Association.

Sharon Robb can be reached at


NCAA Division I Women’s and Men’s Swimming Championships


It will be like old times when Comets teammates Alia Atkinson and Natasha Moodie share a pool deck again.

Atkinson, 21, a senior at Texas A&M and Moodie, 19, a junior at the University of Michigan, will be among the nation’s top swimmers when the NCAA Division I Women’s and Men’s Swimming Championships.

The three-day meet begins Thursday at the Boilermaker Aquatic Center in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Atkinson, a two-time Olympian for Jamaica, will compete in the 200-yard individual medley (1:58.13), 100- (59.80) and 200- (2:08.07) yard breaststroke events.  She is seeded second in the 200 breaststroke.

Atkinson is one of 16 qualifiers including seven seniors to qualify for the Big 12 champion Aggies.

Last year she scored a team-high 42.5 points at NCAAs to lead the Aggies to eighth. She finished second to Olympic gold medalist and world record holder Rebecca Soni in the 200-yard breaststroke with a school record 2:06.99. Her time made her the third fastest breaststroke in NCAA history behind Soni and Tara Kirk.

The Aggies have finished in the Top 10 at the NCAA meet for three straight years.

“This is definitely a group that has been there before,” said Texas A&M coach Steve Bultman, a former Florida Gold Coast coach at the now-defunct Mission Bay Aquatic Training Center. “They aren’t going to be scared or in awe of the situation when they get there. They have trained well and competed well all season and I think they expect to perform at a high level at the NCAA Championships.”

Moodie,  a member of the 2008 Jamaican Olympic team, is making her NCAA Championship debut.

She will compete in the 50- (22.53) and 100- (49.46) yard freestyle events as well as three relays.

Moodie is one of seven swimmers the Wolverines, third-place finishers at the Big Ten Championships, qualified for NCAAs.

Moodie, an All-Big Ten second team selection, finished the season at the team’s top sprinter, holding the team’s best time in the 50 freestyle and second best in the 100 freestyle.

A total of 322 swimmers and divers will compete for national titles. Student-athletes qualified for the championship by meeting the established standards in their events. will stream both sessions of competition on Thursday and Friday and the preliminary session on Saturday. will stream the finals live on Saturday.

Additionally, ESPN2 will air a 90-minute show at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 6.

The complete list of swimmers competing in the championships is available on the NCAA website at

Sharon Robb can be reached at




FORT LAUDERDALE—A small but talented group of swimmers from the Coral Springs Swim Club will compete in the Speedo Champions Series Southern Zone Southern Sectional Championships that begin today.

Olympians Vlad Polyakov, 26, of Kazakhstan, Arlene Semeco, 26, and Leo Andara, 23, both of Venezuela, head the 10-swimmer contingent for the four-day meet at the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Complex.

Other Coral Springs swimmers entered are sisters Lindsey, 15, and Taylor McKnight, 17, Zain Qali, 22, Dawud Al-Khalefi, 18, Marco Camargo, 20, Loai Tashkandi, 19, and Luke Torres, 15. Most of them will swim just one event.

Several international teams from Latin and Central America and the Caribbean will compete including Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Bahamas. A field of 790 swimmers from 13 countries are entered.

The four-day meet begins Thursday with the women’s 1500-meter freestyle and men’s 800-meter freestyle at 5 p.m. The rest of the week prelims are 9 a.m. and finals at 5 p.m.

Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte, 25, of Daytona Beach, who will compete in the meet, will sign autographs and pose for photos on Saturday and Sunday from 2-4 p.m. at the aquatic complex.

Sharon Robb can be reached at



A new era in swimming begins with the merger of the Coral Springs Swim Club and Comets Swim Team.

Two of the most well-respected USA Swimming clubs in the southeastern United States will officially become the South Florida Aquatic Club on May 1. 

The Florida Gold Coast’s newest club will combine more than 450 swimmers and 20 employees including two world-class coaches, two 50-meter Olympic-size pools, three 25-meter and 25-yard pools, and diving and teaching pools at the Coral Springs Aquatic Complex, Mullins Park and City of Pembroke Pines Academic Village Pool, currently undergoing a training facility and pool deck expansion. 

Between them, SOFLO co-head coaches Michael Lohberg and Chris Anderson have more than 50 years of coaching experience and share the same vision. 

The clubs’ 8-and-under age group programs will remain under the auspices of the Coral Springs Swim Club and Comets satellite programs.

The Coral Springs Swim Club as well as the Comets Swim Team will continue to exist. All 8-and-under swimmers will still be registered under their original club name.

“Chris and I and all of our coaches wanted to do it that way,” Lohberg said. “You just don’t wipe out over 30 years of tradition.”

About two years ago, Lohberg started noticing a trend across the country.

 “There has been a trend in the United States to combine teams for economical reasons and also to make it more interesting for the kids,” said Lohberg, a six-time Olympic coach. “We are facing a lot of competition from other sports. “We have to make it exciting for kids to want to stay in the sport. I don’t look at this as competing against other swim teams, I look at it as competing against other sports.

“The main reason these kids get in the sport is camaraderie, not because they think they can be an Olympic champion,” Lohberg said. “They want to be with their friends, go to competitions together, go on trips and compete in local, national and international meets. It’s fun to be in large groups.

“And, by sheer numbers, together we will be competitive on a high level. It is very difficult for a relatively small team to go up against teams that consist of four or five clubs or run their program in seven different pools.

“The Comets are very strong in the younger age groups and we are strong in the older age groups. These kids want to be on a successful team and they want to have fun. In the last 10 years, Coral Springs has won more Junior Olympics than any other FGC team. We sent eight swimmers to the 2008 Beijing Olympics with Dara Torres winning three medals. I call that success, but today success is defined differently than it was five years ago.”

Both Florida Gold Coast clubs were recently recognized among the nation’s best with excellence awards from USA Swimming’s Club Recognition Program.

Coral Springs earned the Gold Medal Club achievement award as one of the nation’s Top 27 clubs.

The Comets earned the Silver Medal Club award, ranked between 28 and 100 in the country. The prestigious awards are based on the performance achievements of the athletes.

“We are taking an older age program and younger age program and putting them together to have a complete program,” said Anderson, also an Olympic coach.

“This is going to enable us to do a lot more dynamic things with not only educating our staff because we have a larger staff now but to bring on people like a sports information director to add the extra flair that we need to run a program of this stature,” Anderson said. “We want to make a huge impact nationally.

“It will give us the flexibility between the two pools to better service our athletes in the water,” Anderson said. “We are already getting our kids to be more competitive in practices that we merged together. That level of training has risen already because of that, which I think is wonderful. It’s giving the dynamic skills that these kids really need to be successful in life.

“We are all on board,” Anderson said. “We know this is for a bigger and better cause of developing swimming in South Florida. It’s going to be really cool to watch these 8-year-olds and see where they’re at age 17. We are going to have a wonderful junior national team and senior national team.”

While awaiting the mandatory 120-day waiting period, the merger has been a gradual progression the past few months. Parents, swimmers, coaches and booster club members have met and exchanged ideas. Head age group coaches Luis Soler of the Comets and Bruno Darzi of Coral Springs will also play key roles in the merger.

At this past week’s Florida Gold Coast Short Course Junior Olympics, host Coral Springs opened a swimmers’ lounge for SOFLO members to socialize and get to know each other during prelims and finals.

The swimmers will be outfitted in the latest swim fashion. The national team colors will be blue, turquoise and black. The age group team colors are blue, turquoise and white. A new logo is being designed.

SOFLO will cater to all branches of swimming and other aquatic sports from babies to masters. The Tri-Star Triathletes Club has also been formed as well as Coral Springs also has an active triathlon club. More details will be released later on both teams.

All three club websites in addition to basic information, will feature daily meet coverage on the local, national and international levels, swimmer and coach features, general swim stories, photos and blog to fill the void left by lack of coverage in shrinking newspaper sports sections and magazines, both locally and nationally.

“We think we are headed in the right direction,” Lohberg said. “We have a common philosophy of swimming in terms of coaching, administration and how you teach your kids. A lot of times these mergers are teams that are thrown together regardless of chemistry and just come together for the swim meets. We did not want to do that. We are doing things together not because we have to, but because we want to.

“The chemistry between the coaches and swimmers from both teams is wonderful. We are having a lot of fun with this. I can’t wait for the first big meet together as a new team.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at




CORAL SPRINGS—-Maria Lopez was looking to leave the Florida Gold Coast Short Course Junior Olympics with a big smile on her face.

She did just that after four days of career-bests and good racing.

Lopez, 14, an eighth grader, wrapped up the four-day meet on Sunday at the Coral Springs Aquatic Complex with a third place finish in the 200-yard butterfly in a career-best 2 minutes, 10.88 seconds.

She bettered her seed time of 2:14.67 in morning prelims with a 2:13.92 and dropped her time again in Sunday’s final. Isabella Paez, 14, of Miami Dade County Aquatic Club won the race in 2:09.75.

Lopez swam best times in all three of her butterfly events—50, 100 and 200 races. In the 100 final, she had a big breakthrough breaking 1 minute and dropping to 58 seconds.

“I was in a really good place in all of my three butterfly events,” Lopez said. “My goal was to drop my times and do good in the butterfly and I did. I like the stroke and it’s something I am pretty good at.

“This was the meet I was pointing towards all season. I was training really hard for this meet. I went to all the morning practices.”

Lopez started swimming at age 9 on the suggestion of her doctor. She had bronchitis and he told her swimming would help alleviate her breathing problems.

“It helped my lungs when I started out,” Lopez said. “Three months later after I started they put me in a meet in a 25-yard freestyle and I won. I was hooked then and after I started swimming my bronchitis completely stopped.

“It’s been fun. I have had a lot of good things happen to me in swimming, making All-Star teams since I was 11 and swimming best times. It motivates you when you have success. It makes you want to keep working hard and I do.”

The Cuban-born Lopez, a former ballet dancer, said she knew it was only a matter of time before she got serious about the sport. A year after she started she made her first All-Star team and decided to stay with it. She doesn’t mind the 30-minute drive to practice from her Hialeah Gardens home.

“I heard about how good the Comets were and I wanted to be on the team,” Lopez said. “I wanted to improve in the sport. My goals are to go to states for high school and get a college scholarship.

“I want to keep bettering my times and maybe I can get to the Olympic trials, too.”

Another flyer, St. Thomas Aquinas freshman Javier Menchaca, 14, was happy with his meet after dropping times in his butterfly events. On Sunday, he was eighth in the 200 butterfly in 2:09.84, a career-best.

“I just wanted to get best times this week,” said Menchaca, who qualified in seven events and dropped his times in his specialty butterfly events. In the 100 butterfly, he dropped from 59 to 57 seconds.

The Mexican-born Menchaca, a late bloomer in the sport, started swimming three years ago.

“It was fun and I liked the practice,” said the former tennis player who qualified for his first All-Star team this week. 

Jorge Depassier, 10, was the Comets top boys finisher on Sunday, placing third in the 100-yard freestyle in a career-best 1:02.54. Ricardo Roche, 10, was ninth in the same event in 1:05.28. Roche was also ninth in the 100-yard individual medley in 1:15.53.

Other top Comet finishers were:

Diego Rodriguez, 12, fourth, 50-yard breaststroke, 33.45.

Jessica Rodriguez, 11, sixth, 400-yard individual medley, 5:11.68.

Kelley Heron, 10, sixth, 100-yard freestyle, 1:03.21 and fifth, 100-yard individual medley, 1:12.89.

Kristina Brennan, 14, eighth, 200-yard butterfly, 2:22.29.

Andres Menchaca, 12, eighth, 200-yard butterfly, 2:42.21.

Amber Hunter, 14, ninth, 200-yard butterfly, 2:25.20.

The Comets had two swimmers finish among the Top 10 high point leaders. They were:

10-and-under girls: Kelley Heron, 10, sixth, 48 points.

10-and-under boys: Ricardo Roche, 10, ninth, 27 points.

Sharon Robb can be reached at




Kelly Kealty is beginning to see all her hard work pay off.

Like many of her Coral Springs Swim Club teammates, the 12-year-old gauged her progress during the four-day Florida Gold Coast Short Course Junior Olympics that ended Sunday at the Coral Springs Aquatic Complex.

Kealty was happy with her training that resulted in career-best times and her first All-Star team selection.

On Sunday, in her sixth and final event of the meet, Kealty, 12, finished sixth in the 50-yard breaststroke in a career-best 33.69 seconds. She bettered her prelim time of 35.41 and seed time of 35.34.

“I wanted to do good in all my breaststroke events, it’s my favorite and I did,” Kealty said. “I am definitely motivated to work even harder. This was my best meet of the season for me in the breaststroke.

“I definitely want to keep improving, I am really trying hard,” Kealty said. “All my close friends and my parents help me especially when you have that one bad day. Then the good days follow.”

Kealty, a seventh grader, watched her older sister swim and decided to give it a try. “I really liked it,” she said. “It definitely took a while to improve. When I turned 10, I started getting my JOs.”

Before swimming, she also tried diving, tennis and racewalking. Her mother, Carolyn, is a national-caliber racewalker currently training for the world trials.

“She is definitely an inspiration to me,” Kealty said. “She went to the Olympic trials. I look at her and say, wow, if my mom can do that, I can do this.”


Keegan Boisson-Yates, 14, and Tyla Martin, 12, tuned up for the April 3-6 CARIFTA Aquatics Championships at the National Stadium Pool in Kingston, Jamaica. The Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA) event is the annual age group championships for the Caribbean.

It will be Boisson-Yates’ fourth appearance.

For Martin, it will be her international meet debut. They will both represent Trinidad and Tobago.

“I am very excited about CARIFTA,” said Martin, who plans to swim 10 events. “I want to do good in all of them. I definitely will have some butterflies. I will be nervous but excited at the same time. I am using it as a learning experience. Based on JOs, I think I am ready.”

In his final event of the JO meet, Boisson-Yates won the 100-yard freestyle in a career-best 47.33.

Martin closed out the meet with a victory in the 100-yard freestyle in a career-best 54.41, breaking 55 for the first time. She was also second in the 100-yard individual medley in 1:00.91.

 “Tyla was just awesome in the freestyle,” praised Coral Springs coach Michael Lohberg. “She has a shot at CARIFTA. Keegan is just sensational. The guy can swim. He is so elegant and smooth in the water.”

Lohberg loves the idea that two of his swimmers are getting international experience at such an young age.

“The thing is that we always encourage when foreigners have a chance to go on a national team they need to go,” Lohberg said. “Because that is what it is about–to make friends internationally, to compete, to see the world.

“It is one of the big advantages that this sport gives you. You have to earn it and then you go. Every time the kids swim for national teams they take a big step forward. They get more self-confidence and feel they are really part of this sport. It is fun to watch.”


Stephanie Campo and Eden Cooke both agreed they were  “going home pretty happy.”

Campo, 12, a seventh grader at Coral Springs Charter, finished second in the 100-yard freestyle in a career-best 56.75. Her seed time was 57.08.

“I am happy with all my swims and times,” Campo said. “I know what I need to work on. This was my big meet. Now I go back to training and get ready for zones.”

Cooke, 10, was fourth in the 100-yard freestyle in 1:02.50 and seventh in the 100-yard individual medley in 1:14.13, both career-best times.

“I did pretty much everything I wanted to do in this meet,” Cooke said. “This is my best meet. I finally broke 1:03 in the 100 free. It was something I really wanted to do.”

“I was just happy I remembered the IM. A couple years ago I got disqualified because I did freestyle instead of butterfly. That was embarrassing. I haven’t done that again.”

Other top Coral Springs finishers:

Marco Hosfeld, 13, third, 50 breaststroke, 30.29 and third in the 100 freestyle, 50.34.

Emma Lincoln, 14, third, 100 freestyle, 54.83 and seventh 400 yard individual medley, 4:49.86

Jenna Moodie, 14, fourth, 100 freestyle, 54.92

Bogdan Cioanta, 14, fifth, 50 breaststroke, 31.25 and seventh in the 100 freestyle, 52.63.

Philomena Fiorenzi, 14, sixth, 50 breaststroke, 33.07

Jenna Diaz, 12, 12th, 400 yard individual medley, 5:25.81

Lohberg was happy with the swimmers’ final day performances.

“Today everybody was at the upper level, it was pretty good,” said the veteran Olympic coach. “Every time we had someone in the final they did really well.”

Age group coach Bruno Darzi was also pleased with the team’s effort despite its slow start early in the season because of poor weather and sickness.

“I am really happy with the results,” said the former elite swimmer. “Before the meet started it was hard to know what to expect because the first two weeks of the season our kids had a hard time. The weather was definitely a factor and several kids got sick during the season.

“It was a challenge for me as a coach to prepare them. There was a lot of work to be done. I had no idea how they were going to perform or know how this meet would turn out. I came to the meet without any expectations, with a ‘whatever happens, happens’ attitude. I was hoping I planned them properly and I think I did because I was really happy with our results.”

Coral Springs had six swimmers finish among the Top 10 high point leaders. They were:

10-and-under girls: Eden Cooke, 10, seventh, 42 points.

11-12 girls: Stephanie Campo, 12, second, 66 points.

11-12 girls: Tyla Martin, 12, tenth, 40 points.

13-14 girls: Emma Lincoln, 14, third, 48 points.

13-14 boys: Keegan Boisson-Yates, 14, third, 68 points.

13-14 boys: Marco Hosfeld, 13, fourth, 45 points.

Sharon Robb can be reached at


CORAL SPRINGS—The future looks bright for Kelley Heron and Ricardo Roche.


CORAL SPRINGS—The future looks bright for Kelley Heron and Ricardo Roche.

The bubbly 10-year-olds turned in some outstanding performances Saturday on the third day of the Florida Gold Coast Short Course Junior Olympics at the Coral Springs Aquatic Complex.

Heron and Roche braved the chilly weather after qualifying for finals in several events. They qualified in six of the Comets 18 finals swims.

Heron took home three third places. She was third in the 200-yard individual medley in 2:36.40; third in the 100-yard backstroke in 1:12.47 and third in the 500-yard freestyle in 5:53.98, her favorite event. They were all career-best times.

Heron has been swimming for three years and loving every minute of it, she said. She tried only one other sport before deciding to focus on swimming.

“When I was little my dad (Patrick) motivated me because he was a runner so my parents started trying to get me into sports.

 “I tried tennis but I wasn’t very good at it,” Heron said. “Then I tried the swim team and I was good at it. Then we moved and I got on the Comets.

“Even though the coaches told me not to expect much because it was my first meet, I made my first sub-JO and ended up getting my first record.”

Heron, a fourth grader at Charter School Central, competes in both short and long distance events but admitted she likes the longer ones “because I get to stay in the pool longer,” she said.

“I have fun in the pool,” Heron said. “Sometimes I’m relaxed depending on what I feel like. Sometimes I’m sick and I don’t feel good but I tell myself I still have to try my best. This weekend I have been in a great mood.”

Heron made most of her AAA times and qualified in all of her events for the FGC All-Star team.

“I am going to stick with swimming,” Heron said. “I want to aim for the Olympics.”

Roche, also dreaming about the Olympics, enjoyed one of his busiest nights of swimming.

After placing ninth in the 200-yard individual medley in 2:40.96 and fifth in the 100-yard backstroke in a career-best 1:17.31, Roche finished the night with a second place finish in the 500-yard freestyle in a career-best 5:58.55.

“I am happy because I like to do good and it’s fun,” Roche said. “I enjoy it. I like the longer events. I had the most fun in the 500.”

Roche, also a fourth grader, got involved in swimming when his cousin introduced him to the sport.

“That’s when I picked swimming over different sports,” said Roche, who used to play soccer. “I am excited I am good. I want to stay in swimming. I want to get faster and break some pool records.”

Roche has two events remaining on Sunday, the 100 individual medley and 100 freestyle.

“I’m lucky I am young and getting all this experience. I am really happy with all this stuff I am learning,” Roche said.

“I want to go to the Olympics some day.”

Two other good swims were Maria Lopez, 14, second in the 50-yard butterfly in 26.78, bettering her 27.70 previous best and Diego Rodriguez, 12, sixth in the 200-yard breaststroke in 2:47.78.

Heron and Roche are among 10 Comets who have qualified for the Florida Gold Coast All-Star team for the April 10-11 FGC vs. Florida Swimming meet at Indian River State College in Fort Pierce.

The other Comets who have qualified after three days are: Zoey Chilcote, 10; Jorge Depassier, 10; Carly Swanson, 12; Leonie Davies, 13; Maria Lopez, 14; Amber Hunter, 14; Javier Menchaca, 14; and Blake Kelley, 14.

The FGC meet concludes today with a full schedule of preliminary and final events.

Sharon Robb can be reached at