Florida State Seminoles Win Season-Opening TYR Fall Classic; Izaak Bastian Picks Up Five Wins

By Sharon Robb
NORTH MIAMI, October 10, 2021—Florida State won the TYR Fall Classic Saturday at FIU Biscayne Bay Campus and extended its’ streak to 13 in season-opening wins.

The Seminoles won the women’s title with 437 points, the men’s title with 517.5 points and combined team title with 954.5 points.

The two-day, eight-team meet featured state schools Florida International, Florida Atlantic, Lynn University and Keiser University.

“We had an awesome day today,” FSU head coach Neal Studd said. “The ladies turned a small lead overnight into a huge win. They were outstanding today [Saturday] and dominated the competition. The men carried the momentum from yesterday [Friday] and had some great performances.”

St. Andrew’s School alum Izaak Bastian, 20, a 2020 Olympian and national record holder on the Bahamas national team won two individual events and was a member of three winning relays.

Bastian won the 100-yard breaststroke in 54.34 and 200-yard breaststroke in 2:01.33. He also swam on the winning 200- and 400-yard medley and 200-yard freestyle relays.

Heading into the second and final day of competition, FSU women’s team (217) had a four-point lead over FIU (213) after Friday’s session.

With two swimmers in each race only allowed to score points in their entered heat, the women won seven of the 16 heats in order to clinch the team title.

The men’s team won seven of the nine events on Saturday, starting with the 200-yard medley relay behind Mason Herbet, Izaak Bastian, Max McCusker, and Blake Moran with a time of 1:38.51. Bastian followed with a win in the 200 breaststroke (2:01.33) and Herbet touched first in the 200 backstroke (1:48.35).


  1. Florida State 954.5, 2. Texas Christian 619.5, 4. Pittsburgh 618, 4. Missouri State 536, 5. Florida Atlantic 524, 6. Florida International 408, 7. Keiser 362.5, 8. Lynn University 357.5.


  1. Florida State 437, 2. Florida International 408, 3. Pittsburgh 306, 4. Texas Christian 298.5, 5. Missouri State 247, 6. Florida Atlantic 246, 7. Lynn 176, 8. Keiser 159.5.


400-yard medley relay: 1. FIU 3:42.66, 2. FSU 3:42.74, 3. Pittsburgh 3:48.09.

200-yard freestyle: 1. Emma Hultquist, TCU 1:50.19, 2. Nina Kucheran, FSU 1:51.69, 3. Christie Chue, FIU 1:51.81.

400-yard individual medley: 1. Stephanie Hussey, FIU 4:15.70, 2. Ginevra Molino, FSU 4:22.57, 3. Daisy Anderson, PITT 4:28.22.

100-yard butterfly: 1. Julia Miranda, FIU 55.36, 2. Jenny Halden, FSU 55.74, 3. Sami Roemer, MOST 57.24.

50-yard freestyle: 1. Anna Miller, MOST 23.34, 2. Rebecca Moynihan, FSU 23.35, 3. Elinah Phillip, FIU 23.55.

100-yard breaststroke: 1. Nina Kucheran, FSU 1:01.88, 2. Christie Chue, FIU 1:02.60, 3. Tatum Detwiler, PITT 1:03.68.

100-yard backstroke: 1. Francesca Pasquino, TCU 56.01, 2. Julia Miranda, FIU 56.17, 3. Daisy Anderson, PITT 56.93.

200-yard freestyle relay: 1. FSU 1:32.72, 2. FIU 1:33.19, 3. TXCU 1:35.59.

3-meter diving: 1. Maha Gouda, FIU 308.70, 2. Kayleigh Clark, FSU 294.00, 3. Alicia Mora Herencia, FAU 285.35.

200-yard medley relay: 1. FSU 1:41.23, 2. FIU 1:42.85, 3. Pittsburgh 1:43.04.

500-yard freestyle: 1. Stephanie Hussey, FIU 4:58.30, 2. Ginevra Molino, FSU 5:03.00, 3. Jill Berger, PITT 5:03.81.

200-yard breaststroke: 1. Nina Kucheran, FSU 2:15.29, 2. Christie Chue, FIU 2:15.30, 3. Alessia Puleo, MOST 2:20.52.

200-yard backstroke: 1. Daisy Anderson, PITT 2:00.89, 2. Maddie McDonald, FSU 2:01.42, 3. Francesca Pasquino, TCU 2:02.73.

1-meter diving: 1. Mandy Song, FIU 323.45, 2. Samantha Vear, FSU 295.50, 3. Amy Read, PITT 285.15.

100-yard freestyle: 1. Rebecca Moynihan, FSU 51.06, 2. Anna Miller, MOST 51.12, 3. Olivia Rhodes, TCU 52.04.

200-yard butterfly: 1. Hannah Womer, FSU 2:01.39, 2. Dolores Margni, FAU 2:03.24, 3. Stephanie Hussey, FIU 2:03.38.

200-yard individual medley: 1. Nina Kucheran, FSU 2:03.94, 2. Daisy Anderson, PITT 2:03.99, 3. Ewa Osiniak, LYNN 2:08.07.

400-yard freestyle relay: 1. FIU 3:24.51, 2. FSU 3:24.54, 3. TCU 2:38.86.


  1. Florida State 517.5, 2. Texas Christian 321, 3. Pittsburgh 312, 4. Missouri State 289, 5. Florida Atlantic 278, 6. Keiser 203, 7. Lynn 181.5.

400-yard medley relay: 1. FSU 3:13.66, 2. TCU 3:20.52, 3. Missouri State 3:21.30.

200-yard freestyle: 1. Peter Varjasi, FSU 1:38.25, 2. Geremia Freri, TCU 1:38.58, 3. Arthur Cury, MOST 1:40.16.

400-yard individual medley: 1. Nick Mason, FSU 3:57.41, 2. Luke Dimiceli, TCU 3:58.76, 3. Dylan Moffatt, MOST 4:04.33.

100-yard butterfly: 1. Max McCusker, FSU 48.11, 2. Serhil Ahadzhanian, PITT 48.71, 3. Piotr Sadlowski, TCU 49.30.

50-yard freestyle: 1. Peter Varjasi, FSU 20.41, 2. Flynn Crisci, PITT 20.86, 3. Raphael Paiva Da, TCU 21.03.

100-yard breaststroke: 1. tie, Izaak Bastian, FSU and Cooper Van Der Laan, PITT 54.34, 3. Vitauts Silins, TCU 55.87.

100-yard backstroke: 1. Mason Hebert, FSU 47.61, 2. Robbie Hill, MOST 50.45, 3. Stefan Vargas, TCU 50.70.

200-yard freestyle relay: 1. FSU 1:21.46, 2. FAU 1:22.48, 3. TCU 1:22.85.

1-meter diving: 1. David Ekdahl, TCU 326.30, 2. Cameron Cash, PITT 304.60, 3. Darwin Nolasco, FSU 303.05.

200-yard medley relay: 1. FSU 1:28.51, 2. TCU 1:30.68, 3. Pittsburgh 1:31.61.

500-yard freestyle: 1. Geremia Freri, TCU 4:29.19, 2. Pawel Krawczyk, MOST 4:31.40, 3. Sam Budd, FSU 4:33.79.

200-yard breaststroke: 1. Izaak Bastian, FSU 2:01.33, 2. Cooper Van Der Laan, PITT 2:03.24, 3. Vitauts Silins, TCU 2:03.80.

200-yard backstroke: 1. Mason Hebert, FSU 1:48.35, 2. Marcin Goraj, PITT 1:49.24, 3. Stefan Varga, TCU 1:50.87.

3-meter diving: 1. Jesco Helling, FSU 343.55, 2. Dylan Reed, PITT 335.30, 3. David Ekdahl, TCU 331.90.

100-yard freestyle: 1. Peter Varjasi, FSU 44.87, 2. Raphael Paiva Da, TCU 45.51, 3. Jackson Kirk, FAU 46.38.

200-yard butterfly: 1. Adam Mahler, PITT 1:48.89, 2. Rateb Hussein, FAU 1:49.31, 3. Pawel Krawczyk, MOST 1:50.51.

200-yard individual medley: 1. Mason Herbert, FSU 1:48.68, 2. Alec Peckmann, FAU 1:51.54, 3. Luke Dimicelli, TCU 1:52.30.

400-yard freestyle relay: 1. FSU 3:00.98, 2. TCU 3:01.18, 3. FAU 3:02.37.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

Florida State Seminoles Announce 2021-22 Schedule; SOFLO’s Gaby Banks Returns

By Sharon Robb
TALLAHASSEE, August 28, 2021—Five home meets highlight the 2021-22 Florida State men’s and women’s swimming and diving schedule.

The dual meet schedule features meets against four Southeastern Conference teams including University of Florida, which is the most for the Seminoles in a single season since 2011-12.

Atlantic Coast Conference mates Georgia Tech and University of Miami women are also on the schedule. Among the 11 teams on the schedule, nine scored points at the 2021 NCAA Championships, with six finishing in the Top 25.

South Florida Aquatic Club’s Gaby Banks returns this season for her sophomore year. The Cypress Bay alum will compete in the freestyle and relay events.

“We are excited to get another season started,” FSU head coach Neal Studd said. “This is one of the most challenging schedules we have put together, but this will give us the opportunity to test ourselves against some of the best in the nation.”

“We have a very good team this year. We want to be prepared and at our best for championship season and this schedule will help us do that.”

The Seminoles open the season with five consecutive weekends of competition, starting with the Oct. 8-9 FIU TYR Fall Classic on the road in Miami. In addition to FSU and host Florida International, Pitt, Florida Atlantic, Missouri State and TCU are also in the field.

FSU will return to host Auburn (Oct.15) before heading out on its first of five trips to Atlanta on Oct. 23 to face Georgia Tech.

West Florida, North Florida and Florida Southern will head to Tallahassee on Oct. 30 for a quad meet, before the Seminoles host rival Florida on Nov. 5.

The first half of the schedule concludes at the Georgia Tech Invitational.

Following December holiday training, FSU will host Texas A&M on Jan. 6. The Seminoles last hosted both squads in January of 1994. The FSU women’s team also hosted the Aggies in a tri-meet in February of 2009 along with Auburn.

FSU travels to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for a dual against LSU on Jan. 15 and the women will swim University of Miami in Coral Gables on Jan. 21.

The Seminoles wrap up the regular season hosting Tampa on Jan. 28 on Seniors Day.

FSU will send a group to compete at the Auburn First Chance Invite from Feb. 3-5 before both teams compete together at the Atlantic Coast Conference Championships in Atlanta at the McAuley Aquatic Center; the site of the 1996 Olympic Games, from Feb. 15-19.

The divers will look to qualify for the NCAA Championships at the NCAA Zone B Diving Championship from March 7-9 in Atlanta.

Qualified swimmers and divers return to Atlanta to compete at the NCAA Championships. The women will compete from March 16-19 and the men will follow March 23-26.

Before the start of the regular season, the Seminoles will host the annual Garnet vs. Gold exhibition on Sept. 24 at 2 p.m. The meet also highlights Alumni Weekend.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, fans are expected to be allowed to attend all meets at the Morcom Aquatics Center in 2021-22. Admission is free.

Other South Florida swimmers joining Banks on the roster are:

Brooke Goedel, Boca Raton alum, Boca Raton

Adrian Aguilar, Doral alum, Miami

Cameron Taddonio, Boca Raton High alum, Boca Raton

Elvis Kotikovski, Pine Crest, Sunny Isles

Izaak Bastian, St. Andrew’s alum, Bahamas

Kyle DiMatteo, Park Vista, Boynton Beach

Sept. 24, Garnet-Gold Meet, 2 p.m.
Oct. 8-9, FIU TYR Fall Classic, Miami, 10 a.m., 5 p.m.
Oct. 15, Auburn, 2 p.m.
Oct. 23, at Georgia Tech, 11 a.m.
Oct. 30, UWF,UNF, FSC, 1 p.m.
Nov. 5, Florida, 2 p.m.
Nov. 18-20, Georgia Tech Invite
Jan. 6, Texas A&M, 2 p.m.
Jan. 15, at LSU, 11 a.m.
Jan. 21, at University of Miami women, 3 p.m.
Jan.28, Tampa, 2 p.m.
Feb. 3-5, Auburn First Chance
Feb. 26-27, UGA Last Chance
March 5-9, NCAA Zone B Diving, Atlanta
March 16-19, NCAA Women’s Championships, Atlanta
March 23-26, NCAA Men’s Championships, Atlanta

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

Florida State Women Rout TCU For First Win; SOFLO’s Gabby Banks Has Three Top Three Finishes

By Sharon Robb
TALLAHASSEE, November 13, 2020–The No. 18 nationally-ranked Florida State women’s team made it look so easy with an impressive 212-88 victory over Texas Christian University Friday at Morcom Aquatic Center.

It was the Seminoles (1-1, 0-1 ACC) first win of the season.

SOFLO’s Gabby Banks, a freshman at Florida State who represents Jamaica internationally, was a member of the Seminoles’ winning 200-yard freestyle relay that won in 1:31.52 with teammates Zsofia Kurdi, Jenny Halden and Rebecca Moynihan.

Banks was also third in the 50-yard freestyle in 23.14 and fifth in the 100-yard freestyle in 51.80.

Jenny Halden and Phoebe Griffiths were double winners for the Seminoles. FSU swept the relays and won every individual event except 1- and 3-meter diving and 200-yard breaststroke. FSU finished first and second in 12 races.

“Today was a lot of fun,” FSU head coach Neal Studd said. “We had a lot of ladies swim their first dual meet today and get their first collegiate wins, which was awesome. We had great leadership from our seniors.”

No. 18-ranked FSU men’s team will host TCU on Saturday at 11 a.m. Spectators are not allowed because of COVID-19 protocols.

Florida State 212, Texas Christian 88

200-yard medley relay: 1. Florida State A 1:39.79 (Emma Terebo, Katherine Baker, Jenny Halden, Rebecca Moynihan), 2. FSU B 1:41.13, 3. TCU B 1:43.76.

1,000-yard freestyle: 1. Sydney Cole, FSU 9:58.86, 2. Maggie Emary, FSU 10:06.44, 3. Cayla Prophater, TCU 10:18.01.

200-yard freestyle: 1. Phoebe Griffiths, FSU 1:49.25, 2. Kertu Alnek, FSU 1:50.39, 2. Emma Hultquist, TCU 1:50.51.

100-yard backstroke: 1. Emma Terebo, FSU 54.48, 2. Maddie McDonald, FSU 54.67, 3. Pia Murray, FSU 54.69.

100-yard breaststroke: 1. Zsofia Kurdi, FSU 1:02.91, 2. Katherine Baker, FSU 1:03.07, 3. Lauren Halliburton, TCU 1:03.51.

200-yard butterfly: 1. Hannah Womer, FSU 2:00.74, 2. Ginerva Molino, FSU 2:03.38, 3. Megan Morris, TCU 2:03.86.

50-yard freestyle: 1. Jenny Halden, FSU 22.90, 2. Renbecca Moynihan, FSU 23.03, 3. Gabby Banks, FSU 23.41.

1-meter diving: 1. Izzy Ashdown, TCU 294.10, 2. Samantha Vear, FSU 277.25, 3. Connie Deighton, TCU 277.15.

100-yard freestyle: 1. Kertu Alnek, FSU 50.40, 2. Rebecca Moynihan, FSU 50.62, 3. Emma Terebo, FSU 50.83, 5. Gabby Banks, FSU 51.80.

200-yard backstroke: 1. Maddie McDonald, FSU 1:57.91, 2. Pia Murray, FSU 1:58.95, 3. Natalie Peterson, FSU 2:01.99.

200-yard breaststroke: 1. Mary Jania, TCU 2:16.91, 2. Lauren Halliburton, TCU 2:16.94, 3. Syd VanOvermeiren, FSU 2:18.21.

500-yard freestyle: 1. Phoebe Griffiths, FSU 4:52.47, 2. Maggie Emary, FSU 4:56.95, 3. Sally Clough, TCU 5:01.35.

100-yard butterfly: 1. Jenny Halden, FSU 53.05, 2. Elise Owen, FSU 54.67, 3. Hannah Womer, FSU 55.57.

3-meter diving: 1. Connie Deighton, TCU 266.30, 2. Faith Harms-Zacharias, TCU 265.60, 3. Samantha Vear, FSU 256.35.

400-yard individual medley: 1. Ginerva Molino, FSU 4:20.74, 2. Megan Morris, TCU 4:22.48, 3. Hannah Womer, FSU 4:25.33.

200-yard freestyle relay: 1. FSU A 1:31.52 (Zsofia Kurdi, Gabby Banks, Jenny Halden, Rebecca Moynihan), 2. FSU B 1:32.26, 3. TCU A 1:35.45.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com


By Sharon Robb

PEMBROKE PINES, August 4, 2020—At age 12, Gabby Banks was named to the Jamaican national swim team.

“It was so cool,” remembered Banks. “I love going to different places and countries (Hungary, Peru, Barbados, Bahamas, Aruba, Trinidad, Martinique), that part is so much fun. World Juniors in Hungary has been my biggest meet so far.”

But it wasn’t until she came to South Florida Aquatic Club as a high school freshman at Cypress Bay that Banks came into her own as a swimmer.

“There was more quality training,” Banks said. “I was a little scared of Coach Chris at first. The practices were distance and IM and I never focused on that. It was really hard and I thought ‘oh my gosh, I am going to die,’ but I understood it after a while. The other team I was with I only did sprinting. When I switched teams my endurance built up. I was doing 100s, 200s and longer stuff without dying. At first it was hard. I felt like I was drowning. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It turned out to be great for me.

“I am swimming better than ever,” Banks said. “I am going close to best times in practice. I never trained as hard as I have right now.

“I love Coach Chris as a coach. He has pushed me so much. I do longer distances and stuff like that. I love training with him. He brings out the best in you.”

Banks, 17, started swimming at age 3 in Jamaica. She and her family moved to South Florida when she was 5. She started swimming competitively at 10. Her older sister, now 26, was also a competitive swimmer and former member of the Jamaican national team.

“Ever since I saw her I wanted to go in the pool,” Banks said. “My other sister did track, but I liked swimming better.”

Banks has been getting in shape for college swimming. She committed to Florida State and expects to arrive Aug. 20 in Tallahassee where she will swim for six-time Coach of the Year Neal Studd.

“It was nice to get back into the pool (after the COVID-19 lockdown) and get in shape for college,” Banks said. “I really loved the school when I went on my college visit. I liked the team and the way they bonded. The campus is super pretty and it’s close to home.”

During the COVID-19 lockdown, Banks stayed busy with two basic college classes and an astronomy course, drawing, reading and doing her zoom dryland workouts. She said she caught up on hobbies she doesn’t normally have time to do. She plans to major in studio art and hopes to be a graphic designer.

“The break wasn’t that bad,” Banks said. “I got a chance to rest my body. It was a good little break. When I got back to swimming it really pushed me to try harder to improve.”

While Banks’ international meets including CCAN have been rescheduled for 2021, she plans on focusing on her college studies and swimming this year. The team-oriented swimmer said she will miss her SOFLO team and friends the most. Her fondest SOFLO memories are 2019 Futures, Junior Nationals, the high school senior sendoff including a special catered dinner from Cheesecake Factory.

“It was really nice, a bunch of cars with the younger swimmers came around and were honking and holding up signs. The dinner was nice. We talked and watched the senior videos. It was a perfect send-off.”

Now she is ready for her next journey.

“My goal is to do well in college and to represent Jamaica well,” Banks said. “I went to world juniors last year and the next step for me would be world championships. I am really excited about the future.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

2020 Summer Olympic Games Postponed, Moved To 2021

By Sharon Robb

TOKYO, Japan, March 24, 2020–South Florida Aquatic Club’s Alia Atkinson will have to wait a little longer to make a historic fifth Olympic appearance.

After weeks of speculation, it’s official: the 2020 Summer Olympics, originally scheduled to begin on July 24 in Tokyo, Japan and end Aug. 9, have been postponed to a later date because of the global coronavirus pandemic and will not take place until 2021.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, made what athletes, coaches and parents knew was inevitable official on Tuesday.

This is the first time the Olympic Games have been postponed although the major international event has been canceled three times because of war.

At 31, the four-time Jamaican Olympian was looking forward to competing in her fifth and probably final Olympics. SOFLO aquatics director and head coach Chris Anderson has coached Atkinson at all four Olympics.

“I do believe it was the best choice,” said the short course breaststroke world record holder. “A great majority of athletes across the board were on the same page. There is such a sense of relief.

“I don’t really have mixed emotions,” Atkinson said. “I think you have to consider everything. If every country competed there was a high probability of getting it. If one person has it, everyone in the Athletes’ Village is confined so that would increase the odds of getting it even more. And if the virus had died down in an athlete’s country and that athlete returned home with it, a whole second wave of the virus would start.”

Canadian Olympic swimming hopeful Bill Pisani already knew his country wasn’t going to the Summer Olympics, but it really hit home on Monday when he learned the Games were being postponed.

Pisani, 21, of West Palm Beach received an email from his swim federation on Sunday night that Canada was boycotting the Olympics because of COVID-19.

“For sure I have mixed emotions,” said Pisani, who grew up swimming in the Florida Gold Coast with the Lake Lytal Lightning and graduated from Florida State last year.

“The most emotion came when I was reading the email that it was postponed. I thought ‘oh wow this is the reality now.’ The more I think about it, it was absolutely the right decision.”

Pisani was pleased to see Canada join forces with Australia boycotting the Games and pressuring the International Olympic Committee to postpone the event until 2021.

“As the son of a Canadian who’s working in a hospital right now at the forefront of this invisible war and as an Olympic hopeful who has dedicated so much of his life to chase the Olympic dream, I am more proud than ever to be Canadian,” said Pisani, referring to his country’s boycott.

Pisani’s mom Lisa is a physical therapist. Recently, her hospital, Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, had its first confirmed case of COVID-19.

“I think there was more of a sigh of relief for all athletes around the world,” Pisani said. “There were just too many questions left unanswered. Hosting the Olympics would have put so many people in danger. It makes us as athletes feel more secure and safe.”

The Canadian Olympic Trials were scheduled for March 30-April 5 in Toronto. Pisani was a favorite to at least make a relay.

“Over the past two years, the Olympic dream had become so close to reality for me,” Pisani said. “It was getting exciting as time went on and this year the closer we got to our Olympic trials it was the most excited I have been about swimming. Everything has definitely changed.”

Sid Cassidy of Boca Raton, St. Andrew’s School aquatics director and longtime swim coach, is vice chairman of the FINA technical open water swimming committee. He has been working Olympic events since 2008.

“I think at this point the athletes had it right,” said Cassidy, who was set to serve as referee for the men’s and women’s 10K races.

“It is hard when you see athletics taking a back seat,” Cassidy said. “Of course, I am disappointed they are not going to do it this year, but it certainly seems to be the best decision.

“There is no easy way to redirect your life. A lot of the talk is to be stronger and learn from it but it doesn’t take away any of the pain. This is very different from the 1980 Olympic boycott, this involves the whole world. I am happy for the athletes knowing but not happy with the reality.”

The U.S. swimming trials were scheduled for June 21-28 in Omaha. The pandemic had already disrupted the training of every elite athlete and Olympic hopeful in the U.S.

The postponement and rescheduling to no later than the summer of 2021 will already add to a crowded 2021 schedule that features the 2021 FINA World Aquatic Championships in Fukuoka, July 16-Aug. 1. Track and field will also have a conflict with its Aug. 6-15, 2021 World Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore.

Florida State swim coach Neal Studd echoed Cassidy’s sentiments after watching his swim program’s NCAA season end early because of COVID-19. The men’s team was expected to finish in the Top 10 for the first time.

FSU had eight swimmers at World Championships and six at University Games. Studd was the 2012 St. Lucia Olympic coach and has coached several student-athletes on the international level.

“If anything this gives it some clarity,” Studd said. “Now we get to re-set and plan accordingly.

“There are bigger problems than sports right now. There is a big picture here and bigger place in the world. Obviously though I would rather be at NCAAs and Canadian trials.”

Mariusz Podkoscielny, two-time Olympian for Poland in 1988 and 1992, now head swim coach at Pine Crest School, said problems were already beginning to surface because of the lack of out-of-competition drug tests during the pandemic.

“There is the aspect that the Olympic competition would not be fair, that the way of preparation is not on a level playing field,” Podkoscielny said. “There are issues of people taking advantage of illegal supplements without conducting the out-of-competition drug testing. It would give athletes a green light to do it.”

Podkoscielny said the COVID-19 is bigger than any sports event including the Olympics.

“The majority of athletes are going to feel relieved,” Podkoscielny said. “These are not the circumstances to get ready for the Olympics or think about the Olympics. People’s lives are changing daily.

“If I were an athlete right now I would be heartbroken not going. There will be disappoitment but it is right thing to do. Everyone agrees with that.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

Former St. Andrew’s Swimmer Beats Cancer, To Resume Competing For Florida State, Earn Degree

By Sharon Robb

BOCA RATON, January 6, 2019—-McKenna Keith and her family had plenty to celebrate over the holidays.

The Florida State senior swimmer and St. Andrew’s School All-American alum was given a clean bill of health after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in July.

After undergoing chemotherapy at Lynn Cancer Institute near her home in Boca Raton, Keith is scheduled to have the port in her neck removed in less than a week and is back at FSU where she plans to finish her collegiate swimming career and graduate with her senior class.

“I can already say it’s the best Christmas ever because nothing can top my gift of life this year,” Keith said.

“The results won’t matter to me, I will be happy enough to just be back in that pool again with my teammates.”

Keith was first diagnosed in Germany where she was staying with her boyfriend Fynn Minuth and his family while training with his club team. When she found “a strange lump” on her neck she went to a doctor who told her to get an MRI.

“It was never even a thought in my mind that this was something serious,” Keith said. “The MRI pictures were up on the screen…something I didn’t need a translation for. All I could see was a huge lump on my neck about the size of an apple. When the doctor walked in I could really tell something was wrong. Through a translation, and the help of google, I found out I had cancer. The doctor said she didn’t know what the diagnosis was called in English so we translated it and found out it was lymphoma. I typed it into google and all I had to read was ‘Lymphoma is a type of cancer…’ and my stomach dropped.”

Her boyfriend’s family provided her emotional support but it was the doctor who gave her hope.

“I don’t remember much from that day but I do remember the most comforting and encouraging words from that doctor: ‘You are an athlete who knows how to fight. You have faced challenges in the pool your whole life. Now, you have a new challenge to face and you will fight the same way.’ Those words have stuck with me this entire process and I can’t wait to tell that doctor I just won the fight.”

The eight-hour flight home was “the longest of my life,” Keith said. The next three weeks were filled with endless doctor appointments, three surgeries and preparation tests for chemo.

“From the first chemo to the last I tried to make myself feel as normal as possible,” Keith said. “It was hard seeing all my friends at school and feeling like I was missing out on my senior season but that only gave me motivation to get through treatment and be able to swim in the senior meet in January.”

While undergoing treatment, Keith took two online classes because she wanted to graduate on time. She finished with a 4.0 GPA for the semester.

“The support from my family, friends, teachers, and coaches has kept me afloat and I can truly say I wouldn’t have made it through this journey without them by my side every step of the way,” she said. “From my roommates setting up a GoFundMe to surprise visits from friends throughout treatment, the support I’ve received is unbelievable. My faith in Christ has also kept me assured in His plan for me and has given me a will to fight. Having that crutch to lean on gave me hope when I felt there was nothing left in my tank.

“Overall, this journey has given me a new perspective on life and how precious every moment is. I like to think of this journey as a blessing in disguise because I have never been more grateful for my life and everyone in it than I am today. I now know exactly what I want to do after I graduate.”

Keith plans to attend an accelerated nursing program “so I can help others the way I was gracefully helped by my nurses,” she said.

When Keith got her final pet scan results, she waited until her dad got home from work to share the good news.

“I walked into the kitchen and she said, ‘Dad, guess what? The cancer is gone.

“I just lost it,” Michael Keith said. “I was crying like a baby, hugging her and praising God. It was incredibly overwhelming.”

Keith lettered in swimming and water polo for four years at St. Andrew’s in Boca Raton. She was a three-time All-American in the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relays and 400-yard medley relay.

She transferred to FSU last season after starting her collegiate career at South Carolina where she swam her freshman and sophomore seasons, competed in four events and had six Top 10 finishes during the regular season. As a freshman she was the team’s top sprinter. She was named to the 2017 Winter SEC Academic Honor Roll.

After her FSU teammates learned of her diagnosis, they set up a GoFundMe account to raise money for her rent payments. She has a lease at her school apartment and was responsible for rent in addition to medical expenses. The page was shut down after raising more than enough money in three days.

Florida State head swim coach Neal Studd said Keith contacted him over the summer.

“She gave me a call and we talked about our swim camps where she was doing a great job,” Studd said. “She was the big sister at the camp. We talked for a few minutes and then she dropped the bomb on me. I couldn’t believe we had this whole conversation about other stuff before she told me. She never made it out to be this big dramatic thing.

“It’s one of those things you hope never happens to one of your kids,” Studd said. “Anyone who knows her knows how special and wonderful she is.”

Studd never filled her spot on the roster. She came to the Seminoles “Think Pink Weekend” at Morcom Aquatics Center in late October and talked to the team. Studd said she inspired them and played a role in their 161-139 victory over Arizona State to remain undefeated.

“It would be ridiculous not to give someone a chance, to give them another shot,” Studd said. “I know she has been doing some light work and swimming already. I want this to be fun for her. I want her to enjoy the process and see where it goes. When she gets back I am not putting any stress on her, she doesn’t need any more stress in the world.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com