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




High School: Pembroke Pines Charter

College: St. Leo University

When Astrid Rigau leaves for college in August, saying goodbye to her “second family” at South Florida Aquatic Club will not be easy.

After seven years with the successful Florida Gold Coast club, Rigau made friends with swimmers and coaches while making memories that will last a lifetime.

Even with all the social media available and her scrapbook of photos that the talented photographer has taken through the years, it will still be hard.

“I have already started crying,” Rigau said.

“I went to Charter School since elementary school and it is mostly the same kids. I’ve watched all these swimmers like Alfredo Mesa grow up. They are my brothers and sisters and it will be emotional letting them go. How many months have I been seeing them twice a day? How can they not be family?”

Rigau, a successful high school and club swimmer, will be attending St. Leo University, the oldest Catholic college in Florida and sixth largest in the United States. St. Leo is an NCAA Division II school and competes in the Sunshine State Conference. The Lions are coached by Paul Mangen.

Rigau is following in the footsteps of SOFLO teammate Bianca Muniz, who recently graduated from St. Leo with three school records as anchor swimmer on the 200 and 400 freestyle relays and 400 medley relay. Rigau will join Heritage Aquatic Team swimmer and junior Chantal Boutillier on the St. Leo roster.

Rigau has been swimming with SOFLO for seven years.

“I would wake up at 4 in the morning for 5 a.m. practice, go to school, then afternoon practice and get home at 7,” Rigau said.

“Doing the senior videos for the banquet I was saying goodbye and started crying. I would do everything for my teammates. My room is dedicated to swimming. Honestly, they have been my life, training with them, going out as a team. Even when we are away from the pool we hang out. We all grew up together.”

It seems like only yesterday when Rigau’s mom signed her up for swim lessons after a close call in the pool.

“My parents had a scare when I was 3-years-old,” Rigau remembered. “A family friend pushed me into the deep end of the pool at one of our houses. I grew up in Puerto Rico and I was always around water so she put me in lessons.”

Rigau has always been athletic. She was involved in ballet and dance. When she was in middle school, she tried out for the Comets Swim team and was among 20 swimmers out of 100 who made the cut.

“I had every coach through the years,” she said. “I was in Meteorites, Asteroids and Bronze Group. The kids at school were on the swim team and that made it fun.

“I had a few injuries but no matter what happened I still came back. Something always brought me back.”

Rigau is excited about the next chapter of her life at St. Leo.

“I didn’t think about swimming for a college until my junior year,” she said. “Then I went on a field trip to all six public schools in Florida. I had been to St. Leo for swim camps and meets. Every time I was there I saw the coach and all the swimmers knew me and treated me like Bianca’s little sister. It’s an amazing group.

“I never thought I would be swimming in college. Look at me I am swimming in Division 2,” Rigau said. “I am really thankful to all my coaches for helping me get there.”

Rigau would love to represent Puerto Rico in international competition but wants to see how she does at the college level.

Her most memorable high school swimming moments during her four-year career was Pembroke Pines Charter winning three district team titles and swimming at regions every year.

“I was honored Coach Rose was one of my coaches. I know I gave her a hard time, I admit that,” Rigau said.

“Club swimming was great. The highlights would be doing a best time and winning Senior Championships in our home pool. The experience of being on SOFLO was the highlight of my life already.”

Rigau is expected to make an impact at St. Leo. She will swim the 50- and 100-yard freestyle, 100 butterfly or 200 individual medley and relays.

“With SOFLO as a building block I know I am going to improve,” she said.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

2013 SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: Daniela Jimenez

2013 SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: Daniela Jimenez

Age: 17

High School: Hialeah Gardens

College: University of South Florida

Ever since she set foot in a pool ten years ago, Daniela Jimenez has loved to swim.

“I started swimming in classes because my mom wanted me to be water-safe,” Jimenez said.

“I liked it and I told my mom I wanted to stay.”

Daniela’s twin sister, Evelin, followed her to the pool and started swimming with her. The sisters swam on their high school team and South Florida Aquatic Club and now are planning to attend University of South Florida.

Daniela Jimenez has been swimming with SOFLO for nearly two years.

“The reason I transferred teams is I wasn’t being pushed hard enough on my old team,” Jimenez said. “The coach wasn’t as motivating as the one here and I liked being on this team.

“I saw improvement in my swimming right away,” Jimenez said. “My times got better and I got stronger. I got more mentally prepared for races here and I feel better as a person and athlete.”

Jimenez enjoyed both high school and club swimming. She said her biggest moment during high school season was when she won districts in the 500-yard freestyle in a record time. In club swimming, it was making finals at senior championships.

“Swimming taught me how to be a team player and to be more dependent,” Jimenez said.

Jimenez plans on majoring in biology and pre-med and hopes to be a pediatrician working with kids stricken with cancer. “I love working with kids,” she said.

She hopes to swim on the college’s club team when not studying. She hopes to return to SOFLO during college break and holidays.

“SOFLO is my second family,” Jimenez said. “I love it. I am here all the time. Even outside the pool we hang out and go to the movies. I love this team.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at

2013 SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: Evelin Jimenez

2013 SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: Evelin Jimenez

Age: 17

High School: Hialeah Gardens

College: University of South Florida

Evelin Jimenez was born to swim.

She started swimming in learn-to-swim classes and competing when she was 7.

“I was bored so I stayed in swimming after I learned,” Jimenez said. “Ever since I started I loved it.

“It was something new for me to try out,” Jimenez said. “I liked the feel of the water and the way I moved with it. It was a good experience for me.”

The Miami-born Jimenez also loved the sport’s social factor. She switched clubs and started training with the South Florida Aquatic Club three years ago.

“I made friends in swimming and through those friends I found SOFLO,” said Jimenez, whose twin Daniela also swims for SOFLO. “They encouraged me and I started improving.

“I am going to miss being able to come here all the time. SOFLO has been like a family to me. I am also excited to graduate and move on.”

Jimenez competed in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle and butterfly races and loved the sprint events, she said. Among her swim highlights were the Orlando Grand Prix and her junior and senior year at the high school state meet.

“I felt good about the quality of my races and my improvement,” Jimenez said.

Jimenez also loved the fact her sister was on the same team.

“We didn’t really swim the same events,” she said. “If we were in the same event, we were a little competitive. I would try to pass her and she would try to pass me. It was fun. It was nice having someone to share swimming with, experiencing the same things at the same time.”

Jimenez hopes to continue swimming at USF at the club level to stay in shape. She will be taking pre-med and biology her first year and plans to focus on her studies.

“I want to be a doctor and I chose USF because it has a good medical program,” Jimenez said.

Sharon Robb can be reached at