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



By Sharon Robb

February 16, 2016—Three years ago Kayla Cunningham’s mother enrolled her in a swim camp.

“I really liked it,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham, 12, a seventh grader at Glades Middle School, liked it so much that she decided to swim year-round with South Florida Aquatic Club.

Her progress has been remarkable.

“She has improved tremendously,” said her Bronze Group coach Rose Lockie. “You can tell she loves it.”

While she is laid back at practice with her teammates, she takes it to another level when she competes in meets.

Cunningham was outstanding at the Gator Swim Club Holiday Classic in Gainesville in December. She swam best times in the 200 butterfly and 200 backstroke and earned TYR December Swimmer of the Month for her efforts.

Cunningham won the girls’ 11-12 200-yard butterfly in 2:19.18. She bettered her previous best of 2:26.99 during prelims in 2:17.60 to earn the top seed. Her time drop was 9.39 seconds.

Cunningham was also eighth in the 200-yard freestyle in 2:05.83. In prelims she swam a best time 2:04.09 to earn the seventh seed, a time drop of 2.54 from her previous best.

She was also second in the 200-yard backstroke in a best time 2:13.16 and fourth in the 100-yard backstroke in 1:01.77.

“The kid really knows how to race,” Lockie said. “At practice she is so laid back but at meets she really races. I can always count on her at a meet. She knows how to race.

“She is really passionate about the backstroke,” Lockie said. “She is our fastest backstroker. She is talented and we know in time she will be phenomenal.

“There’s no pressure from her family. They are just there to support her. She is the kind of kid who will stick with it for the long haul. She is here because she wants to be.”

Cunningham enjoyed being with her teammates and competing in Gainesville.

“I really liked it,” Cunningham said. “You could be with your teammates and it was a travel meet. I like being competitive. I was happy and it made me swim well.”

Cunningham has all her JO cuts except the breaststroke.

“I like training,” Cunningham said. “I am trying my best at practice. I am working on good technique. I am working on my hands now. I have a weird thing where I keep my hands in a weird position. I am trying to get out of that habit.”

Cunningham said her goals are to make her sectional cuts and do well in the Silver Group when she moves up.

“I want to do my best at JOs and survive Silver Group,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham said she got inspired when she attended a swim clinic that featured Olympians and national-caliber swimmers at SOFLO.

“It was really cool to see them and learn how they swim fast,” Cunningham said. “I got to meet them. I learned how to do a proper backstroke start, how to get out faster and about breathing in the freestyle.

“Since that clinic, I have seen a change in my swimming. I used to be a lot lazier and a procrastinator before I started swimming. Now I know time is really important. I really like swimming and I want to stay with it.”

The TYR 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. Each TYR Swimmer of the Month will receive a free TYR mini backpack.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com


By Sharon Robb

June 22, 2015—Joseph Lee knows what it takes to be a good swimmer and is willing to do it.

“I like to work hard in practice, I am very competitive,” Lee said.

Lee, 12, a seventh grader at Silver Trail Middle School, has been swimming for six years. He followed in his brother Daniel’s footsteps.

“I went to all of his meets,” said the South Florida Aquatic Club age group swimmer. “I thought swimming was really interesting. It looked like a lot of fun to me.

“I knew how to swim and I knew all the basics just by watching my brother.”

Lee joined the Comets/South Florida Aquatic Club team and started honing his skills with the coaching staff.

“At the beginning I didn’t think of swimming as competitive,” Lee said. “I thought it would be fun to do. Once I got into the Asteroids and Meteorites something just clicked.

“I watched the older swimmers train really hard, go to meets and swim fast times. I decided then I wanted to go to the Olympics.”

Lee now trains with Coach Rose Lockie and the Bronze Group.

“He trains incredibly hard every day,” Lockie said. “He leads my group. He is also a great inspiration for the younger boys in my group.”

While Lee is focused on swimming, he also enjoys making friends in the sport.

“I was really happy I started swimming,” Lee said. “It’s a lot of fun because of my coaches and my friends.”

His best events are butterfly, breaststroke and individual medley.

“I just try to do the best that I can,” Lee said. “I set a goal then I set my mind to it. I work towards that goal and once I make it I create a new goal. I just train hard and hope for the best.

“Swimming gives me something to do. My coaches and friends actually help me go through the pain every single day of practice. They keep me moving and motivate me.”

Lee, who has both U.S. and South Korea citizenship, is training for the upcoming Florida Gold Coast meet at Nova Southeastern.

“I never thought I could go this far,” Lee said. “I watched the older swimmers put their whole life into swimming. I didn’t think I would be that kind of person but I am. I know I have to put in the work. I want to see how good I can get.”

Lee, the May Swimmer of the Month, joins April Swimmer of the Month Alana Acevedo, 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




Valentina Carrion of South Florida Aquatic Club is the Nike Swimmer of the Month for June.

Carrion, 12, has made remarkable progress since she started swimming two years ago with SOFLO much to the delight of the coaches and her teammates.

Carrion was happy with her best time in the 100-meter freestyle she swam at the recent Fort Myers travel meet.

“I felt really good about that,” Carrion said. “It was really exciting. It wasn’t one of my best meets but I finished off with my best time.

“It was really exciting and my teammates were there. I was just happy that I swam fast and had fun.”

Carrion swims in Coach Rose’s Bronze Group.

“I really like going to practice,” Carrion said. “I like Coach Rose. She pushes me hard to do my best in practice. When I come home I feel like I really tried my best.”

SOFLO veteran age group coach Rose Lockie has been impressed with Carrion’s progress and work ethic.

“She swam a great 100 free but it is more than just her performance at the meets,” Lockie said.

“It is also how she is training. She has come such a long way and in the last couple of meets she has just blossomed. It was not that long ago that she was in my slowest lane swimming at the back of the lane. She is now bordering on my “A” lane and is leading her lane in practice.

“Her improvement has been amazing,” Lockie said.

Carrion had other interests including dancing and tennis, but it was swimming that captured her heart.

“My mom used to swim and had always tried to get me into it but I never really wanted to,” Carrion said. “Then during the summer I decided to give it a try and I ended up really liking it. My friend told me about SOFLO so I tried out there and got into the pre-team. I really liked it and now I moved up in the Bronze Group.

“It is really fun having my friends there with me,” Carrion said. “I really like the competition and going to the meets. It’s just not just the winning part. I really like competing.”

Carrion is well-disciplined when it comes to balancing her studies with swimming. She is a seventh grader at Montessori Academy where she is an honor student and also in the Duke University program.

“I know how to manage my time with homework, studying and swimming,” Carrion said. “It is really hard because after school I go to advance math class and then straight to swimming.”

Carrion and her teammates are training for the upcoming Junior Olympics where she hopes to make it into the finals and qualify for the all-star team. “I have been wanting that for a while and that’s what I am working for,” she said.

Carrion 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 and Rafael Rodriguez for May.

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