SOFLO’s Leonardo Mateus Earns Silver Knight Award; Sophia Bedoya Nominated

By Sharon Robb

MIAMI, May 29, 2020—Despite the world being turned upside down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, South Florida Aquatic Club’s Leonardo Mateus earned one of the highest honors for outstanding high school seniors in South Florida.

Mateus was recognized for his achievements in athletics via Thursday’s livestream of the 62nd annual Silver Knights award ceremony. He was among 30 high school seniors in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties honored.

Mateus, an Everglades High School alum who has been with SOFLO for 13 years, is headed to Ivy League school Yale University.

Mateus is the creator, director, and editor of the CollegePrep Project website, a one-stop shop for students applying for athletic scholarships.

As captain of Everglades’ swim team and member of SOFLO’s national team, Mateus learned how overwhelming the college application process can be. Through the CollegePrep Project, he greatly simplified the application process for fellow athletes.

Mateus was recognized as Most Dedicated Swimmer from 2016–2020. He was the recipient of the Dartmouth Book Award in 2019 and named a Cambridge Scholar with Merit in 2018. He also was inducted into the Science National Honor Society and tutored students in biology and chemistry.

SOFLO’s Sophia Bedoya, who has been with SOFLO for ten years and headed to New York University this fall, was nominated for a Silver Knight award for journalism.

The event recognizes outstanding students in fifteen categories.

The Silver Knight categories are art, athletics, business, digital and interactive media, drama, English and literature, general scholarship, journalism, mathematics, music and dance, science, social science, speech, vocational technical and world languages.

The prestigious award was created in 1959 by the former Miami Herald Publisher John S. Knight, and is hosted annually by the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald.

“These students aren’t just among the brightest in their graduating class, but they made public service a priority, selflessly serving to help others in our community,’’ said Aminda Marqués González, executive editor, president and publisher of the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald, who hosted the event. “They are inspiring and we weren’t going to miss an opportunity to celebrate their incredible achievements.”

Each category awarded one winner and three honorable mentions from each county, coming from Miami-Dade’s 481 nominees and Broward’s 220 nominees. The 701 students represent 68 Miami-Dade schools and 35 Broward schools, both public and private.

The Silver Knight award includes a $2,000 scholarship from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, a Silver Knight statue, an AAdvantage 25,000-mile travel certificate and an American Airlines Silver Knight medallion. The 90 senior honorable mentions received a $500 scholarship and an engraved plaque.

Sharon Robb can be reached at




High School: West Broward

College: New York University

Amber Hunter said goodbye to her second family last week.

The longtime Comets Swim Team and South Florida Aquatic Club swimmer left for college and next chapter in her life.

“Today was my last official practice with SOFLO,” Hunter wrote on her Facebook page.

“I can’t even begin to say how thankful I am to have been a part of such an amazing team for the past ten years.

“The pool became my home and my teammates became my family. I’ll miss it incredibly but I’m excited for what the future has in store.”

Hunter started swimming with the Comets ten years ago. She was a top butterflier, ranked among the state’s Top 75 swimmers and was one of the club’s Nike Swimmers of the Month.

“Ten years is a long time,” Hunter said. “It’s hard to remember not swimming and being around everybody.”

She got her introduction to the pool when her mom Terri signed her up for lessons at a Pennsylvania pool. When she and her family moved to South Florida, she joined the Comets.

“I guess I liked it and we continued,” Hunter said.

“When we first moved to Florida I really enjoyed the sport,” Hunter said. “I did a few other sports (soccer and softball) but I stuck with swimming.”

The hard part for Hunter during the team’s annual banquet and her final week of practice with her longtime teammates and coaches was knowing it was probably all for the last time, at least until the holiday break.

“I’m not really saying goodbye, I know I will see them,” Hunter said. “I will keep in touch with my close friends and will be able to see how they are doing. It’s not a serious goodbye, I know I will be back.

“I know it will be a change for sure. It is bittersweet. I am going off to college with bigger goals but I am leaving SOFLO/Comets where I got my start.”

When Hunter started searching for colleges, academics was always the priority for the aspiring writer. She would like to write fiction novels and get involved with publishing and editing other novels.

“Academics was the first thing I wanted and I wanted a college that had the major I wanted,” she said.

“NYU did offer Division 3 swimming and has a sanctioned team,” Hunter said. “I have the best of both worlds with academics and swimming.

“Division 3 is a little bit of a different atmosphere. There is less stress on swimmers. It’s for swimmers who want to be there since there are no swimming scholarships.”

Hunter has plenty of memories from club and high school swimming. Her sophomore year West Broward had a strong 400-yard freestyle relay. “That was a fun relay to race at state,” she said.

“My senior year I made state in the 100 butterfly and finished tenth, second in consolations,” Hunter said. “I didn’t get the times I wanted exactly but I had a lot of fun.

“Swimming really helped me learn a lot of lessons when I was growing up. I learned how to manage my time and about dedication. I think that’s why I stayed in the sport so long. I was focused on my goals and putting in the work paid off in the end.

“It was a lot of fun being part of a team. The team dynamic was great and so was the atmosphere. It was a great thing to be able to stay with a team for so long. I know I am going far away but I am looking forward to the challenge and starting the next chapter of my life.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at