By Sharon Robb

April 12, 2015—CJ Kopecki is the perfect example what hard work and sheer determination can do for a swimmer.

The South Florida Aquatic Club age group swimmer has risen through the ranks since he started swimming competitively at age 10.

“When I first started, I was a slower kind of swimmer, I wasn’t fast at all,” Kopecki said. “I would see the older groups swim at meets and everyone would congratulate them after they would win. I started working towards that.”

Kopecki, now 15, didn’t do it alone.

First there was SOFLO veteran age group coach Coach Rose Lockie encouraging him.

“She was one of the big coaches who helped me the first year,” Kopecki said. “She put me in butterfly which is my best stroke.”

And there was former SOFLO coach Megan Garland the past three years.

“After Coach Rose helped me I started progressing a lot and doing really good after I turned 13,” Kopecki said. “I didn’t think I could get fast enough to move up to Silver and went into Senior Developmental. After one practice Coach Rose came to me and talked about it. She believed I could get there if I worked my butt off in swim practice. Eventually, after JOs, I moved up. Coach Megan helped me tremendously, too. I wouldn’t be where I am without her.”

And, of course, there are his teammates he trains with day in and day out.

Kopecki was 3 when his grandmother taught him how to swim. He played soccer, but soon realized he was more suited to swimming.

“I have flat feet and can’t run fast without hurting my knees and shins,” he explained. “I decided to do a sport I didn’t have to run in and started swimming. I wasn’t athletic or fit at all when I started.”

Between pool and dryland work, Kopecki ended up dropping 15 pounds and getting fitter.

“I always liked being in the water,” Kopecki said. “I liked going out in the ocean with my grandma.”

Kopecki, a freshman at American Heritage School, competed in his first state high school meet this past fall and is a member of the Patriots’ boys state champion team. His club highlight swims were at sectionals and senior championships.

“I was happiest with my 200 fly at sectionals,” Kopecki said. “It was the first time I made “A” finals at sectionals. I was happy with my mile at senior championships. My time drops were pretty good after I was injured (back). I didn’t have the endurance before and that mile showed me I was back and could do it.”

Kopecki hopes to get even stronger and faster over the next three years and earn a college scholarship.

“Coach Chris has been telling me if I keep working and progressing I can get there,” Kopecki said. “That’s a big goal of mine.”

Kopecki, coming off a bout of the flu, is working his way back into shape.

“I am just going to eat, sleep and swim and try to get my junior national cut,” Kopecki said.

He even plans on training while he is in Raleigh, N.C., site of the weeklong national competition where he will compete on a nine-member mock trial team for American Heritage Plantation. Kopecki is in his first year of the school’s law program. “It’s interesting and fun,” he said.

Kopecki joins February Swimmer of the Month Zackary Harris and January Swimmer of the Month Madison Johnson.

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

Sharon Robb can be reached at

Ryan Lochte Wins Another Gold On Day 3 Of Sectionals

Ryan Lochte Wins Another Gold On Day 3 Of Sectionals


With every race, Olympian and world record holder Ryan Lochte is getting stronger.

The 25-year-old, competing in the pool where he trains, won his second event Saturday night at the Speedo Champions Series Southern Zone Southern Sectional Championship at the University of Florida’s O’Connell Center.

Lochte, coming off knee surgery and rehab last fall, swept the individual medley events.

A day after winning the 400-meter individual medley, Lochte, who lives in Gainesville, won the 200-meter individual medley in 1 minute, 59.35 seconds to move into a tie for sixth place in the world rankings.

Bolles’ Aubrey Peacock was second in the 200 IM in 2:04.70 and St. Thomas Aquinas alum and Olympian Bradley Ally, who grew up swimming in the Florida Gold Coast, was third in 2:06.73.

Gator Swim Club’s Gemma Spofforth of Great Britain won the 100-meter backstroke in 1:01.67.

Rex Tullius of Daytona Beach won the men’s 100-meter backstroke in


Lysistrati Halkides won the women’s 200 IM in 2:17.78. Lindsey McKnight was third in 2:19.52.

Sarah Bateman won the 50-meter freestyle in 26.03. Swim Florida’s Jonathan Nunez won the men’s 50 freestyle in 23.52.

Lauren Driscoll of Fort Lauderdale Aquatics won the 400-meter freestyle in 4:15.34, nipping the Gators’ Jamie Bohunicky who finished in 4:15.72.

Metro Aquatics’ Carlos Omana won his second title of the meet. After winning Thursday’s 800 freestyle, Omana won the 400 freestyle in 3:58.40.


With nationals right around the corner, several world-class times were turned in on the third night of the USA Swimming Grand Prix in Los Angeles Saturday night.

In the women’s 50-meter freestyle, Kara Lynn Joyce, 24, of FAST outsprinted Jessica Hardy, 23, of Trojan Swim Club, to win in 25.14. Hardy finished in 25.16.

Katie Hoff, 21, of FAST won the 400-meter freestyle in 4:06.21. Kate Ziegler was second in 4:09.44.

Tyler Clary, 21, of FAST won the men’s 400-meter individual medley in 4:16.37. Robert Margalis, 28, of FAST was second in 4:22.63.

Nathan Adrian, 21, of California Aquatics won the men’s 50 freestyle in 22.11.

Michael Klueh, 23, of Longhorn Aquatics won the men’s 200-meter freestyle in 1:49.68.

Japan’s Kosuke Kitajima, 27, won the 200-meter breaststroke in 2:11.14. Tales Cerdeira, 23, was second in 2:13.76 and Michael Alexandrov, 25, was third in 2:13.88.

Ariana Kukors, 21, of FAST won the 200-meter individual medley in 2:11.01.

Rebecca Soni, 23, of Trojan Swim Club won the 200-meter breaststroke in 2:24.89.

Ryan Cochrane, 21, of Island Swimming, won the 1500-meter freestyle in 15:08.13.

SOFLO’s Caroline Kuczynski, 19, was 39th in the 400-meter freestyle in 4:24.27 and 54th in the 200-meter individual medley in 2:24.14.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

Ryan Lochte Wins 400 IM On Day Two Of Sectionals

Ryan Lochte Wins 400 IM On Day Two Of Sectionals


Olympian and world champion Ryan Lochte of Daytona Beach got a confidence-building victory Friday night at the Speedo Champions Series Southern Zone Southern Sectional Championships in Gainesville.

In the midst of a comeback since knee surgery last fall, Lochte looked impressive winning the 400-meter individual medley by more than 10 seconds at the University of Florida’s O’Connell Center.

Racing the event for the first time since the Rome World Championships, Lochte won in 4 minutes, 16.91 seconds, the 15th fastest time in the world this year.

University of Florida’s Conor Dwyer, a training mate of Lochte’s, was second in 4:27.09. Carlos Omana of Miami Metro Aquatics, coming off his 800-meter freestyle victory, was third in 4:38.20.

Lochte swam the 200 free prelims in 1:50.15, a second slower than his season-best of 1:49.05 and scratched the finals so he could focus on the 400 IM.

Fernando Ernesto Santos won the 200 freestyle in 1:52.67.

Brazilian Felipe Lima won the 100 breaststroke in 1:02.79. Russian Roman Sludnov, seventh in the world, was second in 1:02.94.

Lindsey McKnight, 16, won the women’s 200-meter freestyle in 2:02.04, just ahead of Jamie Bohunicky of Gator Swim Club in 2:02.20. McKnight was also tied for sixth in the 100 butterfly in 1:04.03. Gator Swim Club’s Sarra Lajnef won the 100 breaststroke in 1:13.94.

Sarah Bateman knocked off British Olympian Jemma Lowe in the 100-meter butterfly in 1:01.42. Lowe finished in 1:01.58.

Sebastien Rousseau won the men’s 100-meter butterfly in 55.63.

The Gators swept the top two spots in the women’s 400-meter individual medley. Brit Stephanie Proud won in 4:52.21. Angelina Ballatore was second in 4:54.74.

Fort Lauderdale Aquatics won the 800-meter freestyle relay with Rebecca Aiello, U.S. junior national team member Lauren Driscoll, Damaris Iriondo and Stephanie Eisenring in 8:29.28.


Olympian Kate Ziegler broke her own meet record in the 800-meter freestyle Friday night in the Los Angeles Grand Prix at the University of Southern California.

Ziegler, 22, of FAST, the top qualifier in the 800-meter freestyle on Thursday, won the event in 8:25.89, faster than her qualifying time of 8:31.05 and breaking her own meet record by five seconds.

Olympian Chloe Sutton finished second in 8:30.50, also breaking the previous meet record.

“Going into that race I didn’t know what to expect,” Ziegler said. “I was hoping after Thursday night to go under 8:30. I felt pretty strong for mid-season and just very happy with that race.

“That was a big confidence-booster heading into nationals,” Ziegler said. “I have been struggling with my times for a while. Hopefully, I will have another great swim at nationals.”

Olympian Kara Lynn Joyce, 24, of FAST knocked off 11-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin in the 100-meter freestyle, 54.69 to 54.84. Jessica Hardy was third in 54.93.

Olympian and U.S. national team member Nathan Adrian, 21, of California Aquatics won the men’s 100-meter freestyle by a body length in 48.71. He was the only swimmer in the field to dip under 50 seconds. Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or was second in 50.10. Olympian Jason Lezak, 34, was ninth in the event in 50.03.

In the women’s 100-meter butterfly, Yang Jiao, 18, won in 2:08.40, outsprinting Lyndsay DePaul, 21, of the Trojan Swim Club in 2:08.44. SOFLO’s Caroline Kuczynski, 19, was 75th in 2:25.92.

Yin Chen, 24, won the 200-meter butterfly in 1:56.92. Tyler Clary, 21, of FAST was second in 1:57.85.

In a shocker, teenager Madison White, 15, of Crown Canyon won the 200-meter breaststroke in 2:12.15, edging Olympian Katie Hoff, 21, who was second in 2:12.79.

Hungarian Katinka Hosszu, 21, won the women’s 400 individual medley in 4:34.68.

Canadian Olympian Ryan Cochrane, 21, of Island Swimming won the 400-meter freestyle in 3:50.78.

Sharon Robb can be reached at