South Florida Aquatic Club Raises The Bar Again In 2019, Sky Is The Limit For 2020


By Sharon Robb

January 1, 2020—South Florida Aquatic Club enters the new decade with some outstanding 2019 memories.

Whether it was Junior Nationals, Senior Championships, Junior Olympics, Atlanta Speedo Winter Junior East Championships, USA Swimming Futures Championships, Southern Zone South Sectional Championships, Plantation Speedo Winter Championships, World Police & Fire Games State High School Championships or Sizzlers, swimmers and coaches were emotionally-charged during the 2019 season.

Buoyed by accomplishments in 2018, the team was determined and motivated to improve and it did.

SOFLO swimmers rose to the occasion defending team titles and winning new ones, competing against the best internationally, nationally, regionally and locally, improving times and strokes.

After senior champs, “The emotions were high,” SOFLO CEO and head coach Chris Anderson said. “I needed to remind the kids more how well they are doing, what they have accomplished, and reward them for what they did.”

Heading into its 20th year of existence, first as the Comets and now SOFLO Sharks, the coaching staff worked together to improve the training environment and continued to cultivate a winning culture.

“The talent we have in the water is easier to maintain when the expectations are there,” Anderson said.

“We have a winning culture. SOFLO has created an infrastructure with its coaches and staff that cultivates a high level of continuing excellence. Our kids challenge themselves and push themselves past their comfort zone and it does show.”

The emphasis was always on “team effort,” not only swimmers and coaches, but parents, booster club, officials, office staff, school support, media and fans, who all played roles in that “team effort.”

SOFLO remains the largest and most diverse local swim club in the Florida Gold Coast.

Each year SOFLO swimmers have learned their lessons well and continued to build on them in 2019. Every swimmer contributed. Every point earned by each SOFLO swimmer at various meets counted.

Success is never taken for granted. After outstanding past seasons, SOFLO improved across the board enjoying more success at every level during 2019 and raised the bar even higher for 2020.

As everyone celebrates the New Year and bringing in the Roaring 20s, the first ten as Comets Swim Team and entering its tenth year as SOFLO, it’s always fun to look back to see what “the team” accomplished over the past twelve months.

SOFLO’s Top 12 Moments in 2019 were:

1. SOFLO is awarded the USA Swimming National Club Excellence Silver Medal for 2020 for the first time in club history. SOFLO has been a Bronze Medal club winner eight of the last nine years (2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019), but had never earned silver. SOFLO moved up from 5,362 to 9,324 rating points and was the only Florida Gold Coast club to earn silver medal club honors and one of only eight teams from around the state.

2. SOFLO established itself as one of the all-time top swim clubs in Florida Gold Coast history winning the FGC Senior Championships combined team title with 3,287 points for the first time in meet history in March. It was the first time SOFLO totaled 3,000 or more points in any FGC meet. SOFLO also won the boys team title with 1,663 points and SOFLO girls were second.

3. SOFLO secured its place in the record books by winning both seniors and JO titles in the same short course season for the sixth time in team history.

4. SOFLO wins FGC Short Course Junior Olympics Short Course Championship for a record ninth consecutive and tenth overall combined title and FGC Long Course JOs for tenth consecutive and 11th overall. SOFLO has won back-to-back JO titles in a single season seven times.

5. SOFLO 15-16 boys win the combined and boys team titles at FGC Senior Long Course Championships.

6. The combination of AquaKids Sharks and SOFLO continued to be successful. AK Sharks’ competitive swimmers race as part of SOFLO.

7. SOFLO’s four-time Jamaican Olympian Alia Atkinson makes her debut with the inaugural International Swimming League pro swim series and Team Iron, owned and led by superstar Katinka Hosszu of Hungary.

8. SOFLO masters swimmer, former Comets coach and City of Pembroke Pines Police sergeant Jennifer Martin won five gold medals, four silver medals and broke two world records in her international swimming debut at the 18th Chengdu 2019 World Police and Fire Games in China.

9. SOFLO’s Kathleen Golding head to Florida and Mary Smutny to Texas to begin another chapter in their outstanding swimming careers at strong Division I programs. And, with her longtime coach Chris Anderson, Golding made her first U.S. Olympic cut at the Phillips 66 National Championship in August in California. Smutny also has her U.S. Olympic trials cut.

10. SOFLO has ten swimmers selected for the Florida Gold Coast-Florida Swimming All-Star Meet in Fort Pierce.

11. SOFLO qualifies three dozen swimmers for the BCAA Championships and all four classifications at the FHSAA State Swimming and Diving Meets including swimmers from Cooper City, Cypress Bay, NSU University School, Pembroke Pines Charter, American Heritage Plantation, St. Thomas Aquinas, Everglades, Doral and Somerset.

12. SOFLO has four swimmers (Lance Lesage, Rafael Rodriguez, Gaby Banks, Mallory Schleicher) named to Sun-Sentinel All-County Swimming and Diving first team.

SOFLO take a bow! Happy New Year and here’s to a safe, happy and healthy new year and decade. Later 2019.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com
http://www.swim4soflo.com

SOFLO’s Rodriguez Swims Final Event, Lesage Wraps Up On Friday At USA Swimming Speedo Junior National Championships


By Sharon Robb

PALO ALTO, Calif., August 8, 2019—South Florida Aquatic Club swimmers Rafael Rodriguez and Lance Lesage are winding up their first USA Swimming Speedo Junior National Championships at Stanford’s Avery Aquatic Center.

In his third and final event on Thursday, South Florida Aquatic Club’s Rafael Rodriguez, 17, swam the 100-meter butterfly in 57.47.

SOFLO teammate Lance Lesage wraps up his swimming on Friday with the 100-meter backstroke where he is seeded 62nd in 58.60.

Other Florida Gold Coast results:

Anna Auld, 16, of East Coast Aquatic Club was 28th in the 400-meter freestyle in 4:23.11.

Individual winners were:

Jillian Cox, 14, the 800-meter freestyle runner-up from Austin Trinity Aquatic Club, came back to win the 400-meter freestyle in a best time 4:13.24 just ahead of incoming Texas freshman Miranda Heckman, 18, of Pleasanton Seahawks in 4:13.27.

Jack Walker of SwimMac edged James Plage of Aquabears, 3:53.02-3:53.07, to win the 400-meter freestyle.

The top six women in the 100-meter butterfly matched or went under the Olympic Trials cut of 1:00.69. Lucy Bell of Fort Collins Area won in 59.05, a lifetime best by nearly one second. She was the only swimmer under one minute.

Peak Swimming’s Ethan Hu won the 100-meter butterfly in 53.71, an Olympic Trials Cut. All three top finishers made the trials qualifying standard of 54.19.

SwimMac won the 4×200-meter freestyle relay in 7:27.66.

USA Swimming is live streaming all sessions of junior nationals, unlike the senior national meet, which had sessions split between USA Swimming and NBC Sports. All 10 sessions of the meet will come through live on USASwimming.org. Prelims are 9 a.m. local time and finals at 5 PM. The meet continues through Saturday.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com
http://www.swim4soflo.com

SOFLO’s Lesage Swims Best Time At USA Swimming Speedo Junior National Championships


By Sharon Robb

PALO ALTO, Calif., August 7, 2019—On a national platform, Lance Lesage of South Florida Aquatic Club swam a best time in his debut at the USA Swimming Speedo Junior National Championships Wednesday at Stanford’s Avery Aquatic Center.

Lesage, 16, swam his first event, the 200-meter backstroke. Seeded 41st in 2:06.42, he swam a lifetime-best 2:06.36, dropped 0.06 seconds and finished 33rd.

Lesage wraps up his meet on Friday with the 100-meter backstroke where he is seeded 62nd in 58.60.

During morning prelims SOFLO teammate Rafael Rodriguez, 17, went 4:39.99 in the 400-meter individual medley and placed 76th. He has the 100-meter butterfly on Thursday.

Other Florida Gold Coast results:

Julia Podkoscielny, 14, swam a best time in the 200-meter backstroke in 2:19.98 to place 57th and dropped 0.34. She has the 100-meter backstroke on Friday.

Paige Maceachern, 16, of Pine Crest Swimming was 53rd in the 400-meter individual medly in 5:04.37.

Other individual winners were:

Samantha Tadder, 16, got her Olympic Trials cut in the 400-meter individual medley in 4:48.52 during morning prelims. She came back at night to win the race and better her time in 4:46.96.

Ian Grum of Dynamo Swim Club won the men’s 400-meter individual medley in 4:23.84 edging Jack Vandeusen of Bolles in 4:24.02. Grum also won the 200-meter backstroke in 1:58.49.

Miranda Heckman of Pleasanton Seahawks won the 100-meter freestyle in 55.98.

Hunter Armstrong of Canton City Schools won the 100-meter freestyle in 49.80.

Felicia Pasadyn of Swim Strongsville won the 200-meter backstroke in 2:12.90.

USA Swimming is live streaming all sessions of junior nationals, unlike the senior national meet, which had sessions split between USA Swimming and NBC Sports. All 10 sessions of the meet will come through live on USASwimming.org. Prelims are 9 a.m. local time and finals at 5 PM. The meet continues through Saturday.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com
http://www.swim4soflo.com

SOFLO’s Lance Lesage, Rafael Rodriguez, Pine Crest’s Julia Podkoscielny Head Florida Gold Coast Contingent At Speedo Summer Junior National Championships That Begin Tuesday


By Sharon Robb

PALO ALTO, Calif.—Florida Gold Coast will be well-represented at the Speedo Summer Junior National Championships at Stanford’s Avery Aquatics Center.

South Florida Aquatic Club’s Lance Lesage and Rafael Rodriguez will make their debut with veteran SOFLO head coach Chris Anderson.

Rodriguez, 17, will open with the 18-and-under 200-meter butterfly on Tuesday. He is seeded 14th in 2:03.26.

On Wednesday, Lesage, 16, will swim his first event, the 200-meter backstroke, seeded 41st in 2:06.42. Rodriguez has the 400-meter individual medley and is seeded with his yards time of 3:58.75.

On Thursday, Rodriguez will swim the 100-meter butterfly, seeded in 57.31 and on Friday Lesage wraps up with the 100-meter backstroke, seeded 62nd in 58.60.

Podkoscielny heads the rest of the Florida Gold Coast contingent on only her second national trip. She is coming off a successful USA Swimming Futures meet where she won three gold medals and got her U.S. Olympic Trials cut in the 400-meter individual medley.

Among other FGC swimmers are Anna Auld, 16, of East Coast Aquatic Club; Kevin Degrijze, 17, of East Coast Aquatic Club; and Paige Maceachern, 16, of unattached for Pine Crest Swimming.

A large number of swimmers who competed in last week’s senior nationals will return to the same pool for junior nationals. Some of the top juniors entered are Lillie Nordmann, Claire Tuggle, Rye Ulett, Ian Grum, Tristen Ulett, Justina Kozan and Ethan Hu.

Also swimming is Maggie Wanezek, 13, who became the youngest swimmer to break 29 seconds in the 50-meter backstroke.

USA Swimming will live stream all sessions of junior nationals, unlike the senior national meet, which had sessions split between USA Swimming and NBC Sports.

All 10 sessions of the meet will come through live on USASwimming.org. Prelims are 9 a.m. local time and finals at 5 PM.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com
http://www.swim4soflo.com

SOFLO’s Kathleen Golding Makes First U.S. Olympic Trials Cut, Makes “C” Final At Phillips 66 National Championships


By Sharon Robb

PALO ALTO, Calif., August 3, 2019—Kathleen Golding is living her dream.

The South Florida Aquatic Club swimmer rose to the occasion with what her coach Chris Anderson called “a spectacular swim” Saturday at the Phillips 66 National Championships at Avery Aquatic Center.

Golding, 18, competing in only her second senior national championship, made her first U.S. Olympic Trials cut in the 400-meter freestyle in morning prelims.

“This is a dream come true,” said Golding, headed to the University of Florida this fall. “It’s what you work for. I am looking forward to going to college and what’s to come.”

Golding swam a lifetime-best 4:15.31 to earn a trip to the June 2020 Trials and chance to compete at the Tokyo Olympics.

Her previous best was 4:18.14. She was seeded 67th going into the race. She was 24th in prelims and qualified for the “C” final. She dropped 2.83 off her previous best.

And then, to top it off she found another gear and came back at night to better her cut time in 4:14.38 and finish 21st. Her total time drop was 3.76.

“I felt really good and strong in the morning,” Golding said. “I was really surprised it didn’t hurt that bad. I was just trying to win my heat. I wasn’t focused on the time. When I touched the wall I was surprised. I didn’t think I was going to get the Trials cut. It gave me confidence for tonight.

“I tried to come back even faster and work on my back half of the race,” Golding said. “I used my confidence from the morning to swim even faster.”

Even more satisfying was the fact Golding made the Olympic Trials qualifying standard with her longtime coach.

“I’m happy I got it with Coach, he was really happy,” Golding said. “He is the reason I am as good as I am. He’s been with me every single day at practice. It means a lot to get the cut with him.

“I had a little bit of a rough spring season, but over the summer I put in a lot of hard training and had a good section meet. It built my confidence for this meet.”

Her biggest accomplishment came less than a day after getting disqualified in the 400-meter individual medley, one of her signature events. Golding has the 200-meter individual event left to swim on Sunday.

“I honestly didn’t feel like I got disqualified,” Golding said. “I was surprised when they pulled me. It does happen and I just had to put it behind me, not think about it and focus on my other races.”

In her fourth and final event at nationals, SOFLO teammate Mary Smutny, 18, was 58th in the 400-meter freestyle in 4:21.28. Smutny is headed to University of Texas this fall.

In other Saturday races:

Ally McHugh surprised the field that featured early leaders Allison Schmitt and Sierra Schmidt to win the 400-meter freestyle in 4:07.08. McHugh pulled off a 29.77 on her final 50-meter split to reach the wall first after being fourth for most of the race.

Elijah Winnington won the men’s 400-meter freestyle in 3:47.39 to complete his sweep of the middle distance freestyles.

Breeja Larson won the 100-meter breaststroke in 1:06.78, her fastest time since 2014.

Devon Nowicki surged in the final 50 meters to win the 100-meter breaststroke in 59.69, just 1/10th of a second ahead of Craig Benson.

Amy Bilquist won the 100-meter backstroke in 59.64, the only swimmer in the final to break one minute.

Shaine Casas won the men’s 100-meter backstroke in 52.72, fifth fastest time in the world this year.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com
http://www.swim4soflo.com

South Florida Aquatic Club, Florida Gold Coast Well-Represented At 18th FINA World Aquatics Championships When Swimming Begins Sunday


By Sharon Robb

GWANGJU, South Korea, July 20, 2019—When the swimming competition of the 18th FINA World Aquatics Championships begin Sunday, South Florida will be well-represented with talented swimmers including several medal hopefuls.

The eight-day meet will be held at Nambu University Municipal Aquatics Center. Opening day events are the women’s 200 individual medley, women’s 100 butterfly, men’s 50 butterfly, men’s 100 breaststroke, men’s and women’s 400-meter freestyle and 4×100-meter freestyle relays including finals in the 400s and relays.

South Florida Aquatic Club will be represented by Olympians Alia Atkinson of Jamaica and Nguyen Vien of Vietnam.

Atkinson, a four-time Olympian, is the 2018 short course world champion in the 50 breaststroke. She holds both short course breaststroke world records at 28.56 and 1:02.36. In her last Worlds appearance in 2015, Atkinson settled for silver in the 50 breast with her current lifetime best of 30.11. Her season best this year is 30.58, ranked seventh in the world.

Atkinson, who turns 31 in December, is among medal favorites in the 100 breaststroke. She has been as fast as 1:05.93 but not since 2015.

SOFLO head coach Chris Anderson will coach the Jamaican team that also features Michael Gunning and Keanan Dols, who is making his long course worlds debut. Dols will compete in the 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley events. Dols has decided to redshirt at Penn to focus on training for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

SOFLO’s Nguyen Vien, her country’s top swimmer, is one of seven swimmers representing Vietnam.

Vien is known as the most prolific swimmer in Vietnam. She collected 19 gold, seven silver and two bronze medals, and broke 11 records at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games. In addition, Vien won two Asian Games bronzes, alongside one silver and two bronzes at the FINA World Cup.

Vien will compete in the 400-meter freestyle and 200- and 400-meter individual medleys. She is using worlds as a warm-up for the 30th SEA Games in the Philippines later this year, according to Tran Duc Phan, Deputy Director of the General Department of Sports and Physical Training.

Aruba national record holder Patrick Groters, a NSU University School and Pine Crest Swimming Club alum, will represent Aruba. Groters holds 11 national records and 18 age group records in Aruba. He is a sophomore at University of Denver.

NSU University and Pine Crest Swimming Club alum Daniel Jacobs, 19, is also competing for Aruba. Jacobs, a sophomore at Georgia Tech who currently trains with Azura Florida Aquatics, is a national record holder in the 4×200-meter freestyle and national age group record holder in the 200 and 400 freestyle. He is expected to swim both freestyles.

Dylan Carter, 23, an American Heritage alum, will represent Trinidad and Tobago. Carter is the 2018 Commonwealth 50-meter butterfly silver medalist and 2018 FINA World Short Course bronze medalist in the event.

“This is the most prepared I have felt for a worlds long course I would say in my life,” said Carter, who also plans to compete in the Pan American Games. “I know I am prepared and I know I am ready.”

Florida State, Riviera Beach Suncoast and Lake Lytal Lightning alum Will Pisani of West Palm Beach is one of 13 male swimmers and 25 overall who will represent Canada. Pisani will compete on the 400-meter freestyle relay team, 100 freestyle and 50 butterfly.

Miami’s Isabella Paez will represent Venezuela in the butterfly events. She is a Doral Academy, Duke and Metro Aquatic Club of Miami alum. She will also compete in the Pan American Games.

St. Andrew’s Izaak Bastian of Florida State will represent the Bahamas in the breaststroke and sprint freestyle. As one of the top swimmers in the Bahamas, Bastian competed at the Youth Olympics in the breaststroke events in 2018 before being named as the Male Junior Athlete of the Year by the Nassau Guardian.

Lauren Hew, another St. Andrew’s alum and Florida State swimmer, will compete for the Cayman Islands. nternationally, Hew represented the Cayman Islands at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in seven individual events.

Azura Florida Aquatics has the largest contingent at worlds with 12 swimmers from 10 countries. They are: Julio Horrego, Honduras; Steven Aimable, Senegal; Gabriel Araya, Chile; Tatiana Illis, St. Maarten; Daniel Jacobs and Alyson Ponson, Aruba; Celina Marquez, El Salvador; Mariel Mencia, Dominican Republic; Yeziel Morales, Puerto Rico; Mya Defreitas, Shane Cadogan and Alex Joachim of St. Vincent and Grenadines.

The battle for medals will be between the U.S., Australia and Canada. The U.S. is projected to win 25, Australia 12 and Canada 9.

Olympic qualifying spots for relays will be on the line. The worlds will be the first chance for countries to qualify relays for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The spots go to the nation and not the swimmer foursome. At the Olympics, countries can select any swimmers they wish. There are seven relay events at the Olympics including the new mixed 400-meter medley relay.

The world championships has brought together a record 2,620 athletes from 194 countries and territories around the world with 76 sets of medals up for grabs in pool swimming, open water swimming, water polo, diving and synchronized swimming.

The meet will be streamed and televised by the Olympic Channel and live timing will be available.

TV Schedule: https://olympics.nbcsports.com/2019/07/17/swimming-world-championships-tv-stream-schedule/

Live Results: http://omegatiming.com

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com
http://www.swim4soflo.com

SOFLO’s Jennifer Martin Preps For World Games At U.S. Police & Fire Championships On Saturday


By Sharon Robb

SAN DIEGO, June 27, 2019—With the Aug. 8-18 World Police and Fire Games just 41 days away in China, Jennifer Martin will get her first big test Saturday at the United States Police & Fire Championships.

The City of Pembroke Pines police sergeant will compete in the one-day swimming competition at Southwestern College in Chula Vista. The championships got under way on June 2 with various other sports.

Martin, 38, representing the Pembroke Pines Police Department, will compete in nine events including four relays.

When not working full-time, Martin has been training and fine tuning with SOFLO head coach Chris Anderson at SOFLO’s Academic Village Pool, where she use to coach with the Comets Swim Team. She has also been cross training in the gym and local road races.

For the second consecutive year, Martin is being sponsored by the Broward County PBA (Police Benevolent Association).

Over three hours, Martin has a Herculean lineup of individual and relay events. She will compete in the 30-39 50-yard breaststroke, 50-yard freestyle, 50-yard butterfly, 100-yard freestyle and 50-yard backstroke. She will also swim four relays: 200 freestyle, 200 medley, 200 medley mixed and 200 freestyle mixed.

“It’s a very challenging day for me,” Martin said.

Martin has been among top athletes in several local, state, national and international competitions. It is the second time she will compete in the United States Police & Fire Championships.

At the 2018 competition in less than three hours, Martin won nine gold medals and broke three USPFC meet records including an 18-year-old record. She competed in three races in less than seven minutes which included two meet-record performances.

Martin won the 50 breaststroke, 50 freestyle, 50 butterfly, 100 breaststroke, 100 freestyle, 50 backstroke and was a member of the winning 200 freestyle relay, 200 medley relay mixed relay and 200 freestyle mixed relay.

She broke meet records in the 50 breaststroke (1990 record of 33.93) in 33.11, 100 breaststroke (1994 record of 1:17.89) in 1:13 and 50 butterfly (2016 record of 28.36) in 28.1.

In her last major international competition, the 2017 World Police & Fire Games in Los Angeles, Martin won seven gold medals and one silver and broke five world records over four days of open water and pool racing.

The eight-day United States Police & Fire Championships is an Olympic-style competition with athletes representing law enforcement, firefighters and officers from corrections, probation, border protection, immigration and customs from across the country. It got under way June 22 and ends on Saturday.

Athletes compete in 54 different sports at 33 venues throughout the San Diego county.

It began in 1967 as the California Police Olympics, in 1990 was the California Police Summer Games, in 2000 was the California Police and Fire Games, and since 2012 has been known as the U.S. Police and Fire Championships.

The California Police Athletic Federation is the governing body for the U.S. Police & Fire Championships. Its mission is to promote sport and physical fitness among personnel representing various agencies.

The World Police & Fire Games are set for 2019 in Chengdu, China. The World Games are held every two years.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com
http://www.swim4soflo.com