Ledecky, Acosta Win On Day One Of Mesa Arena Pro Swim Series; Atkinson, SOFLO Swimmers Compete Thursday

By Sharon Robb

April 15, 2015—Teenager Katie Ledecky had the crowd on its feet at Skyline Aquatic Center on opening day of the Arena Pro Swim Series Wednesday in Mesa, Ariz.

Ledecky, 18, of Nation’s Capital didn’t break any world records but did run away with the 1500-meter freestyle title in 15 minutes, 42.23 seconds. She took the lead early and built on it every 100 meters.

It was the fifth fastest time in event history and was the fastest time in the world this year becoming the first woman to crack the 16-minute barrier. The previous fastest this year was 16:06.72 by Lauren Boyle of New Zealand.

Ledecky was coming off a few weeks of altitude training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

Chile Olympian Kristel Kobrich was second in 16:26.95. Madelyn Donohoe of The FISH, at 13, the youngest swimmer in the field, was third in a best time 16:44.01, dropping six seconds from her previous best.

Top seed and American record holder Michael McBroom scratched leaving the men’s 800-meter freestyle wide open. The three-man race came down to Marcelo Acosta of El Salvador and University of Louisville freshman winning in 8:10.85 and out-touching Nick Norman of Mission Viejo in 8:11.41 and teammate Daniel O’Connor in 8:12.76.

Both races are non-Olympic events.

Earlier in the day, swimmers held court with the media including Michael Phelps and his coach Bob Bowman. It was his first pre-meet press conference in six months since serving his suspension for his second DUI.

The 18-time Olympic medalist said he is not planning on competing for a spot on the world team for the World Championships. USA Swimming has banned him from the world championships in Kazan as part of his DUI punishment.

Instead, he said he hopes to compete for the U.S. at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics. It was the first time he let his Olympic intentions be known publicly.

During his 40-minute press conference, Phelps admitted the last few months have been some of the most difficult in his life.

“I did more growing up in the last probably eight months than I ever have in my life just on a lot of different levels,” Phelps told a packed house of reporters. “I’m in a better place and a better state of mind mentally, emotionally, spiritually, everything.

“Like I said, it’s been some of the most challenging times of my life. Brutal. But you know, it’s life, and I have been able to come out on a better end and have a clearer head. I don’t think I’ve ever been like this once in my life.”

The 29-year-old said he has rekindled his passion for the sport. He is now engaged to his on-again, off-again girlfriend of eight years, Nicole Johnson.

“I feel like I am back in high school and even leading up to the 2008 Olympics,” Phelps said. “Just how I feel in the water. I’m happy at workout. I’m smiling. I actually come to every workout, which is a surprise. It’s a change from last year. It’s because I want to be there.”

The four-day meet and fourth stop on the Arena Pro Swim Series, capped at 600 swimmers, continues on Thursday with a full schedule of prelims and finals. Phelps will swim the first of five events, the 100-meter butterfly, on Thursday along with Ryan Lochte. The rivals are entered in the same events but are at different levels of training. SOFLO three-time Jamaican Olympian and world record holder Alia Atkinson and her teammates will also compete on Thursday.

The meet ends on Saturday. Top three finishers will win $1,000, $600 and $200.

Prelims are 9 a.m. and finals 6 p.m. MST. The meet will be live streamed at usaswimming.org. Universal Sports Network will air live television coverage on Thursday and Friday with Floridian Rowdy Gaines as color analyst.



1500-meter freestyle:

1.Katie Ledecky, Nation’s Capital 15:42.23, 2. Kristel Kobrich, CHI 16:29.95, 3. Madelyn Donohoe, FISH 16:44.01; FLORIDA: 11. Cameron Davis, University of Miami 18:01.18.


800-meter freestyle:

1.Marcelo Acosta, Louisville/Azura Florida Aquatics 8:10.85, 2. Nick Norman, Mission Viejo 8:11.14, 3. Daniel O’Connor, Mission Viejo 8:12.76

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com


SOFLO Well-Represented; Phelps Returns At Arena Pro Swim Series That Begins Wednesday In Mesa

By Sharon Robb

April 14, 2015—Three-time Jamaican Olympian and world record holder Alia Atkinson of South Florida Aquatic Club heads a star-studded field for the Arena Pro Swim Series that begins Wednesday at Skyline Aquatic Center in Mesa, Ariz.

Atkinson, 26, opens with the 100-meter breaststroke where she is seeded fourth in her signature event in 1:06.86 behind Jessica Hardy, Breeja Larson and Micah Lawrence.

Atkinson is also entered in the 100 butterfly, 200 breaststroke and 200 individual medley.

Atkinson will be joined by SOFLO teammates Jorge Murillo Valdes, 23, and Carolina Colorado, 27, both of Colombia; and teenager Julien Pinon of state champion American Heritage Plantation. Pinon will compete in the 100, 200 and 400-meter freestyles.

Colorado will swim the 100 butterfly, 50 freestyle and 100 and 200 backstrokes. Murillo Valdes will swim the 100 and 200 breaststrokes

At 43, SOFLO and Bermuda Olympic hopeful Lisa Blackburn is the oldest swimmer in the field. Blackburn is entered in the 100 breaststroke, 100 and 200 freestyles.

The fourth stop on the Arena Pro Swim Series opens with the men’s and women’s distance events timed finals.

Katie Hoff, 25, of Hurricane Aquatics, Elizabeth Beisel, 22, of Gator Swim Club, St. Augustine’s Vien Nguyen, 18, of Vietnam and Lindsey Schwartz, 18, Marta Ciesla, 16, and Jessica Nava, 15, of Pine Crest Swimming and Cody Cline, 17, of Wahoos of Wellington leads the Florida Gold Coast and Florida Swimming contingent.

Beisel is the women’s points leader on the series with 38.5 points. She has entered more than the limit seven events and is expected to drop one. She is entered in the 200 freestyle, 200 and 400 individual medleys, 200 butterfly, 100 and 200 backstrokes, 400 and 800 freestyles.

Ryan Lochte, 30, of SwimMAC and Daytona Beach heads the Florida men’s contingent that also includes Florida 2012 alum Conor Dwyer, 26, the men’s series leader with 38 points, and South African two-time Olympian Sebastien Rousseau, 24, of Gator Swim Club.

The meet also marks the return of Michael Phelps, 29, from his six-month suspension for a second drunk driving charge. Phelps, seeded first in the 100-meter butterfly (51.17), is entered in five events and will go head-to-head with Lochte in all five events.

The 18-time Olympic champion is entered in the 100 butterfly on Thursday, 100 backstroke and 400 freestyle on Friday and 200 individual medley and 100 freestyle on Saturday. Phelps hasn’t competed in the 400 since 2009.

For the second time Phelps is using the Mesa meet as a springboard meet back into competition. Phelps competed in the Arena meet after coming out of retirement last year after a 20-month hiatus since the 2012 Olympics.

Phelps, now engaged to be married, has gone through a six-week rehab program after his suspension by USA Swimming in October. His last competitive meet was the Pan Pacific Championships in August.

While Phelps is expected to be in the media spotlight, U.S. Olympians Katie Ledecky, Tyler Clary, Natalie Coughlin, Matt Grevers and Allison Schmitt head the field.

Fifty members of the U.S. national swim team are expected to compete. The field is a good mix of pro, collegiate and high school swimmers.

Among other Florida swimmers entered are:

Venezuelan Olympian and Gator Swim Club’s Andreina Pinto, 23, opening the meet in the 1500-meter freestyle (8:25.93). Hungarian Iron Lady Katinka Hosszu, 25, who has been training in Fort Lauderdale, is also entered in the distance event.

Poland Olympian Marcin Cieslak, 23, and Nick D’Innocenzo, 24, Gator Swim Club.

Carlos Mahecha, 22, Andres Felipe Montoya, 24, and Esnaider Reales, 18, Azura Florida Aquatics.

Mateo De Angulo, 24, of Club Seminole.

Emma Svensson, 22, of Swim Florida.

Bahamian Olympian and Bolles alum Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace, 25, of SwimMAC, seeded first in the 50-meter freestyle (24.34).

Kira Toussaint, 20, of Swim Florida

Caroline Simmons, 24, of Performance Aquatics.

My Fridell, 22, Heather Arseth, 21, and Cameron Davis, 19, of University of Miami.

Claire Donahue, 26, of Western Kentucky, who has been training with Atkinson and SOFLO, will compete in the butterfly where she is seeded second in the 100 in 58.03.

The four-day meet, capped at 600 swimmers, ends on Saturday. Top three finishers will win $1,000, $600 and $200.

Prelims are 9 a.m. and finals 6 p.m. MST. The meet will be live streamed at usaswimming.org. Universal Sports Network will air live television coverage on Thursday and Friday with Floridian Rowdy Gaines as color analyst.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com


SWIMMING ROUNDUP: SOFLO’s Arlene Semeco Makes Statement At Venezuelan Nationals

SWIMMING ROUNDUP: SOFLO’s Arelene Semeco Makes Statement At Venezuelan Nationals


May 20, 2011

Olympian Arlene Semeco is getting closer and closer to career-best times on her quest to return to the Summer Olympic Games.

Semeco is among more than 500 Venezuelan swimmers competing at the National Swimming Championships since Tuesday at the Bolivarian Swimming Pools of Barquisimeto in Venezuela’s north-central Lara state.

The competition, that ends on Saturday, is a qualifier for the national team for the upcoming Shanghai World Championships and Guadalajara Games.

The 27-year-old national record holder won the 100-meter freestyle in 55.87 which is her best time since the 2008 Beijing Olympics and post-tech suit era. She was also fourth in the 50-meter butterfly, one of her off events, in 28.80.

“She was shocked when she looked at the clock,” SOFLO co-head coach Bruno Darzi said. “She didn’t think she would go that fast. It means a lot to her. She is a second off her best without the suit.

“I am really happy for her,” Darzi said. “She struggled a little bit at sectionals. We made an adjustment in training and it seemed to work. We did not taper her for this meet. She is training for the Pan American Games. We only gave her a couple days’ rest.”

Semeco, who left early for her homeland, seemed relaxed after spending a few days with her family and brother before the meet.

Semeco has the 50-meter freestyle, one of her signature events, remaining.

When not training or competing, Semeco is working on her Master’s degree on Food and Nutrition at Florida International University.


Hallie Stupp, younger sister of SOFLO’s Olympic hopeful Julie Stupp, is training at the Coral Springs Aquatic Complex for the summer.

Stupp, 19, who recently finished her freshman season at University of Arizona, her sister’s alma mater, will compete in Rome in June along with her sister and several other SOFLO swimmers.

Stupp’s resume is impressive.

The St. Louis High School Swimmer of the Year set the only state record at her final high school meet and was named Swimmer of the Meet. She won the 100-yard butterfly in 54.87 bettering her own state mark of 54.95 set last year as a junior. It was one of three gold medals the 6-foot tall swimmer won. She also won the 200-yard individual medley and was a member of the winning 200-yard medley relay.

SOFLO Puts Two On Kuwait National Team

Abbas and Zain Qali of the South Florida Aquatic Club earned spots on the Kuwait national team after turning in some outstanding swims at a recent local Kuwait meet.

Despite not being rested for the meet, Abbas Qali, 18, won the 50-meter butterfly in 25.6 after switching to the event in January. Zain Qali, 23, finished second in the butterfly event in 26.0. Abbas Qali also won the 200-meter individual medley in 2:15. Zain Qali was second in the 200 IM in 2:16.

Zain Qali is expected to return to South Florida to resume training on May 25th.


Coral Springs Aquatic Complex will be the site of the Coral Springs Short Course Yards “Last Chance” Masters Swim Meet Saturday beginning at noon. Warm-up begins 11 a.m. Meet director is Chris Jackson. The meet is open to all swimmers, ages 18-and-up. The 25-yard course pool, eight lanes will be seeded for all 12 individual events and relays.

More Honors For Gator Swimmers

University of Florida’s swim team placed three student-athletes on the 2010-11 Capital One Academic All-District III At-Large Team which recognizes the nation’s top student-athletes for their combined performance in swimming and classroom. Those selected were Teresa Crippen of Conshohocken, Pa. to the women’s second team, Brett Fraser of the Cayman Islands to the men’s first team and Cameron Martin of Clearwater to the men’s second team.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com