SOFLO’s Atkinson Takes Silver At XXI Commonwealth Games

By Sharon Robb

April 6, 2018—Gold medal favorite Alia Atkinson of Jamaica had to settle for silver Friday in her first final at the XXI Commonwealth Games at newly-renovated Optus Aquatic Centre in Gold Coast Australia.

The South Florida Aquatic Club swimmer, the fastest qualifier in the 50-meter breaststroke, was second in 30.76 behind gold medalist Sarah Vasey of England in 30.60. Aussie Leiston Pickett took bronze in 30.78.

The four-time Olympian was slower than she was in the semifinal in 30.53, second in the world rankings, which would have won the gold medal. She duplicated her silver medal effort at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Atkinson will also compete in the 50-meter butterfly and 100-meter breaststroke.

In other finals:

South Africa’s Chad Le Clos won the 50-meter butterfly in a tight race in 23.37. Plantation American Heritage alum Dylan Carter of Trinidad & Tobago took silver in 23.67 and Ryan Coetzee of South Africa bronze in 23.73.

Aussie teammates Kyle Chalmers and Mack Horton finished 1-2 in the 200-meter freestyle in 1:45.56 and 1:45.89 respectively. Duncan Scott of Scotland was third in 1:46.30.

Aussie Clyde Lewis won gold in the 400-meter individual medley in 4:13.12. Scotland’s Mark Szaranek was second in 4:13.72 and Lewis Clareburt won New Zealand’s first medal placing third in 4:14.42.

Aussie Mitch Larkin won the 100-meter backstroke in 53.18. Bradley Woodward was second in 53.95 and Markus Thormeyer third in 54.14.

Aussie swept the women’s 100-meter butterfly with Emma McKeon, 56.78, Madeline Groves, 57.19 and Brianna Throssell, 57.30.

Through April 15, more than 70 nations will compete. The Commonwealth Games have been held since 1930, open only to athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations, including countries such as Australia, Canada, India and United Kingdom.

While there are only 52 countries in the Commonwealth of Nations, 70 countries compete in the Commonwealth Games.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

SOFLO’s Marc Rojas Competes Sunday In 17th FINA World Aquatic Championships

By Sharon Robb

Budapest, Hungary, July 22, 2017—Marc Rojas is a feel-good success story in swimming.

The 23-year-old South Florida Aquatic Club swimmer has had his share of ups and downs in the sport but continues to enjoy the journey that takes him to the 17th FINA World Aquatic Championships in Budapest, Hungary.

On Sunday, the first day of the swimming competition, Rojas, representing the Dominican Republic, will compete in the 100-meter breaststroke. He will swim in the third of eight heats along with another Florida Gold Coast swimmer, Pine Crest Swimming’s Jordy Groters of Aruba, now swimming at Missouri.

Rojas will also compete in the 50-meter breaststroke later in the week.

It will be his first long course world championships. In December 2016, he made his international debut at the FINA World Short Course Championships in Windsor, Canada.

“That was suppose to me my last meet supposedly, that was the plan,” Rojas said.

After graduating Florida State, the former high school state champion at Pembroke Pines Charter and junior national champion at Indian River State College wasn’t planning on swimming much longer.

“I was training to make my U.S. Trials cut but I didn’t do it,” Rojas said. “I waited to see if I could represent the Dominican Republic (his father is Dominican) so I kept training through the summer. The paperwork and everything went through giving me the okay for world championships in December.”

Rojas made a lasting impression in his international debut. He finished the 100-meter breaststroke in a lifetime-best 1:02.18 and national age group short course record for the Dominican Republic.

“That opened the door for me to keep representing the Dominican Republic for the next few years and here I am,” Rojas said.

“I am super excited,” said Rojas, whose mom Elena will watch her son from the stands.

Longtime SOFLO coach Chris Anderson, who has guided his transformation from a gangly teenager to an international swimmer, will coach him in addition to the Jamaican national team without four-time Olympian Alia Atkinson, who is training for the FINA World Cup prize money series.

“It’s going to be a great meet to see all these high level competitors with world rankings and Olympic medals,” Rojas said.

After qualifying for worlds at the Dominican Nationals and being selected for the world team, Rojas has settled into a disciplined and structured lifestyle he said is “swimming, working and schooling.” Rojas is taking the prerequisite classes to get into nursing school.

“I want to stay with swimming for a while,” Rojas said. “I put a lot of thought into it. I thought that getting a career is always going to be there. With swimming, if I stopped I wouldn’t be able to pick it up later. I don’t want to look back over the course of the years and think what could have been. I want to jump on this opportunity I have and go for it.”

Most of the world’s top breaststrokers are in the men’s field including Adam Peaty of Great Britain, Felipe Lima of Brazil, Cody Miller and Kevin Cordes of the U.S., Cameron Van Der Burgh of South Africa and China’s Zibei Yan.

“It’s really cool to be here,” Rojas said. “It’s just like Canada. I feel gratitude and very fortunate to be at worlds around this high level of athlete. These are the greatest athletes in the world.

“The most nerve wracking moment is the ready room where all the athletes are going through their little routines and getting in the zone. In Canada that was the first time for me. It was a cool moment to look around and see the world’s greatest swimmers by your side. It was a cool experience and I’m looking forward to it and competing.”

In addition to Groters, other swimmers with Florida Gold Coast ties are: Gulliver Swim Club’s Alicia Mancilla of Guatemala with her Gulliver head coach Chris George; Metro Aquatics/Duke’s Isabella Paez of Venezuela; St. Andrew’s Lauren Hew of the Cayman Islands; Pine Crest Swimming’s Mikel Schreuders of Aruba; Azura’s Marcos Lavada of Venezuela and Eisner Barberena of Nicaragua; and Azura alum Marcelo Acosta of El Salvador and Daniella van den Berg of Aruba. Other top Florida swimmers ready to take center stage after making a big splash at the 2016 Rio Olympics are Clay High School alum Caeleb Dressel, 20, and Bolles alum Ryan Murphy, 22.

Sunday’s opening session features preliminary rounds in eight different events with four finals. The men’s and women’s 400-meter freestyle and 400-meter freestyle relays will bypass semifinals and advance directly into the finals.

Sharon Robb can be reached at


By Sharon Robb

June 14, 2017—Working toward a common goal with teammates who share the same vision has helped Kelley Heron raise the bar in her swimming.

Heron, 17, a senior-to-be at Pembroke Pines Charter this fall, realized that added motivation her sophomore year of high school.

“Swimming high school helps you realize how it’s going to be in college,” Heron said. “You can’t take vacations whenever you want, you have to be consistent, you have to train and be focused if you want to go to a good college and swim there.”

Training with South Florida Aquatic Club’s national group and head coach Chris Anderson for the past three years has not only helped the backstroker improve, but focus on her future in the sport.

“Training with good people every day where everyone has the same mindset and same goals where they want to be has definitely helped my swimming,” Heron said.

At the March 24-27 Florida Gold Coast Senior Championships held in her home pool at Academic Village, Heron turned in a Wonder Woman-like effort. She won the 200-yard backstroke in 2:00.86, placed second in the 50-yard backstroke in 26.64 and 100-yard backstroke in 57.95, all three best times.

She was also second in the 50-yard breaststroke in a best time 31.03; second in the 100-yard individual medley in a best time 58.02; fifth in the 100-yard butterfly in a best time 57.84, the first time she broke 1 minute (her previous best was 1:00.37); was eighth in the 50-yard butterfly and swam a best time 26.44 in prelims; and was fifth in the 200-yard individual medley in 2:08.54. She was a member of the winning 200-yard medley relay (1:42.97), one of three relays she swam.

Heron won her first high point award since age 10 with 159 points and played a key role in SOFLO defending its team title.

Heron is now diligently training for next month’s sectionals, hoping to get her Junior National cut time in the backstroke. She will also compete in her third Futures Championships.

“Getting all best times gave me confidence,” Heron said. “It was the training I did for the meet. It was a combination of everything with workouts, dryland, running and watching my diet. I have gotten older and stronger. I have more muscle and I am swimming more. I am disciplined which helps when I am in school and doing homework.”

Anderson has been pleased with Heron’s progress through the years. She started swimming with SOFLO at age 8 and is one of the swimmers who has been with the club the longest.

“She has done a great job,” Anderson said. “She is physically fit and is consistently in the weight room. She has become a better athlete and that translates into fast swims. She leads by example and is a great role model for our younger swimmers.”

Heron stumbled on to swimming by process of elimination. She tried softball, tennis and several other sports before a friend suggested swimming.

“I wasn’t coordinated at all and I didn’t do good in any of them,” Heron said. “I liked swimming and I was good at it and that helped. I am glad I stayed with the sport.

“When I was 8 I wasn’t thinking about a college scholarship and now I am. It’s been good working with Coach. I think probably my endurance and technique have improved with him. When I was younger I didn’t understand pace at all, I just knew to go fast. But now I see a change in the 200 and 100 back.”

Each TYR Swimmer of the Month receives a free TYR backpack.

SOFLO sponsor TYR is a USA manufacturer of recreational and competitive swimwear, caps, goggles, triathlon gear and accessories and one of the nation’s top companies.

Sharon Robb can be reached at