WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
DAVIE—On an emotionally-charged night in the grand ballroom of the Signature Grand, the Comets swim team celebrated the 2009-2010 season and a future full of promise.
In a festive atmosphere, more than 400 swimmers, parents, coaches and volunteers shared laughs and tears while reliving some of the highlights of the Comets 11th season.
It was a historical night for the Comets celebrating their final banquet before beginning a new chapter as the South Florida Aquatic Club.
CEO Chris Anderson announced that the merger between the Comets and Coral Springs Swim Club is now official and that SOFLO signed Nike as its first major sponsor.
The Comets coaching staff of Chris Anderson, Chris Grace, George Mersinger, Alex Wlosek, Rosemarie Lockie and Luis Soler took turns handing out awards for most improved, most dedicated and most valuable swimmers in six different age groups, from 8-and-unders to seniors.
The Comets also honored 12 high school seniors all about to embark on their next journey to college, but hopefully, Anderson said will be back for summers and holidays.
“It was such a pleasure to watch a fine group of seniors,” Anderson said. “I can’t wait for the future years when they come back.”
The seniors honored were Andy Alvarez (University of Miami), Melissa Fernandez (George Washington University), Stephanie Freiria (Florida Atlantic), Kevin Ganaim (Embry-Riddle), Ashley Hicks (Florida State), Travis Lockie (New Mexico Military Institute), Courtney Marx (Western Kentucky), Bianca Muniz (St. Leo College), Tiffany Oliver (Florida State), Tyler Sell (Florida State), Jake Shultz (Trinity) and Julio Simon (University of Miami).
Some of the most poignant moments came when the seniors took the stage and talked about their team and coaches.
From the eloquent words of Tyler Sell; touching, tearful moments between Travis Lockie and his mother Rosemarie, one of the Comets popular coaches who Travis called “a true inspiration;” to Andy Alvarez’s David Letterman-like highlights list including “watching Chris cry at every banquet,” and Tiffany Oliver’s “fake” book-sized speech, it was obvious the Comets common bond was their love for the team, their coaches and what the sport has done to help them develop through the years in and out of the pool.
“This has been the best experience of my life,” said a teary-eyed Julio Simon. “I learned what family is and what it’s like to be close to everyone. This team is just great. It helped me get to where I am now. I love you all.”
Simon told Anderson, “you made me go beyond my limits.”
“The memories will last a lifetime,” said Ashley Hicks.
“I found a place, a home away from home with the Comets,” said Courtney Marx.
“I don’t want this to end,” said Tiffany Oliver. “It wasn’t exactly a cakewalk for me to get here. Now I understand why I did everything I had to do when I was younger. You get out of life what you put into it. Never lose focus of your dreams.”
Anderson also took time to give a heartfelt thanks to booster club members Paula Berti, president; Tracee Gibson, treasurer; Christina Perera, secretary; and Jamie Mlujeak, parliamentarian; office staff, coaches, city officials, webmaster Nestor Mateus and “all the special people” that have helped the Comets “become one of the most competitive swim programs.”
Banquet organizers, headed by Berti and Kristy Monti, in charge of logistics, along with office manager Diana Oliver, staged a memorable night. There was a DJ and music; and entertaining, well-choreographed slide presentation of season highlights put together by Karina and Alfredo Raimont that garnered screams from the young crowd sitting around the projection screen. In addition to candid snap shots there were inspiring messages including “through it all, we believe” and “we believe in the future.”
Among the 2010 Special Awards were:
Most Improved Swimmer: 8-and-under, Kelly CiFuentes and Leonardo Mateus; 9-10, Jenna Shultz and Kevin Porto; 11-12, Emily Neville and Gustavo Valery; 13-14, Maria Lopez and Teddy Sandoval; 15-and-over, Xavier Brown; Senior, Stephanie Freiria and Travis Lockie.
Most Dedicated Swimmer: 8-and-under, Sarah Walpole and Rafael Rodriguez; 9-10, Kelley Heron and Jorge Depassier; 11-12, Monica Rodriguez and Austin Iglesias; 13-14, Kristina Brennan and Edward Kon; 15-and-over, Katie Brennan.
Most Valuable Swimmer: 8-and-under, Jennifer Rodriguez and Jonathan Skarie; 9-10, Jessica Rodriguez and Ricardo Roche; 11-12, Andrea Melendez and Diego Rodriguez; 13-14, Leonie Davies and Blake Kelley; 15-and-over, Courtney Marx and Marc Rojas; Seniors, Tiffany Oliver and Tyler Sell.
For those interested in purchasing banquet photographs contact photographer Kathleen Armstrong at email@example.com.
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org