By Sharon Robb

May 12, 2017—Two years ago Ricardo Roche got serious about his swimming and it’s made a world of difference.

“I was always competitive and I always wanted to be my best, but two years ago I started looking at cuts and wanting to go out of town to meets,” the South Florida Aquatic Club swimmer said.

“I started to mature and got a little more dedicated. Coach beat me up more in workouts and I started going to the gym.”

The dedication has paid off for the Pembroke Pines Charter junior and SOFLO national team member.

Roche, 17, turned in his finest performance at the Florida Gold Coast Senior Championships in his home pool at Academic Village. He swam six best times in individual events, was a member of three relays and now has three Junior National cut times.

Roche dropped 30.29 seconds off his previous best time winning the 1,650-yard freestyle. He finished in 15:44.80 and played a key role in SOFLO winning the combined team and men’s team titles.

In his other five events, he was:

Second in the 400-yard individual medley in 4:00.36, 8.73 time drop.

Third in the 500-yard freestyle in 4:34.48, 8.28 time drop from 4:42.76.

Third in the 200-yard backstroke in 1:50.69, 3.59 time drop from 1:54.28.

Eighth in the 200-yard freestyle, 1:42.99, 3.92 time drop.

Eighth in the 100-yard backstroke in 52.71, 1.64 time drop.

“I wanted to drop all of my times and I got the times I wanted to get,” Roche said. “This was really big, it was my best meet. I got my Junior National cuts and I am moving up.”

Roche finished fifth in high point in the open division with 115 points.

Roche has been swimming for 13 years. He learned the basics in Mexico, where he was born, and continued in South Florida when his family moved. Roche has dual citizenship and can compete for both Mexico and U.S. He has been on the national team since his freshman year of high school.

“I am happy about how I am doing,” Roche said. “I don’t think I am super surprised. I do work hard even though sometimes I slack and tend to miss a practice. But I give it my best.”

Roche played soccer in Mexico but gave it up for swimming.

“I just like the sport, I love the water,” Roche said. “I have a passion for it. I’m not sure why, I just do.”

Roche trains six days a week with his SOFLO teammates. He has three junior national cuts in the mile, 800 freestyle and 200 backstroke.

“I think I am bigger, stronger and faster and that’s helped me improve,” said Roche, now motivated by the prospect of earning a college scholarship and competing internationally.

“College is the goal for sure,” Roche said. “A few years ago I didn’t really focus on it. I didn’t think about it back then. But now I started to focus on it a lot. I am narrowing my goals for the future.”

Roche is the only swimmer in his family. Younger brother Carlo, 15, is a talented cyclist who competes at the Brian Piccolo Park Velodrome.

“He is really good, but I am glad I chose swimming,” Roche said. “I was super excited after seniors. I got best times and the team won which was best of all.”

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 sha11cats@aol.com



By Sharon Robb

April 23, 2017—Alexis Christensen gave up mixed martial arts for swimming and she’s so happy she did.

“I used to do mixed martial arts, but I didn’t like it,” she said. “I didn’t like touching a bunch of sweaty boys.”

Christensen, who also did gymnastics, dance and karate, was in an advanced class with high school boys. Her father and brother are also involved in mixed martial arts.

“I did wrestling some times and part of the time I did boxing. I did it for about two years and I got to a stripe green belt but I wanted to do something else.”

Christensen decided to try swimming and signed up with South Florida Aquatic Club eighteen months ago. She knew how to swim underwater and went snorkeling with her family but learned her first freestyle stroke from Coach Carlos. She started at Level 4 in lessons and moved from pre-team to team.

She is currently working with Coach Luis and the Asteroids and making remarkable progress.

“I am a lot happier in swimming,” she said. “I really like it. I love being in the water. I found it peaceful and enjoyable.”

Christensen, 11, a fifth grader at Hawks Bluff Elementary School, is a straight A student who loves to read and write.

In the last three months her progress in the pool has been remarkable.

In the February Panther Invite at Pine Crest, she was ninth in the 500-yard freestyle in 6:21.98; 12th in the 200-yard freestyle in 2:22.22. She swam the 50-yard freestyle in 31.48 and 50-yard backstroke in 36.81.

In the Area 3 Developmental Championships in March, Christensen had some impressive time drops. She was second in the 500-yard freestyle in a best time 6:07.61, bettering her previous best of 6:21.98; third in the 200-yard freestyle in a best time 2:16.77, bettering her 2:22.22 previous best; fourth in the 200-yard backstroke in a best time 2:44.91, lowering her previous best of 2:54.32; and, sixth in the 100-yard backstroke in a best time 1:15.92, dropping from 1:19.06. She also led off SOFLO’s third place 200-yard medley relay that finished third.

At Saturday’s Florida Gold Coast Jupiter Invitational, Christensen had two nice time drops before the meet was cancelled on Sunday because of inclement weather. In the 100-meter backstroke she finished in 1:28.89, a time drop of 14.44 seconds and in the 50-meter freestyle she finished in 34.53, dropping 6.46 seconds. She was also tenth in the 200-meter freestyle in 2:37.84.

“I love the freestyle and backstroke and long distance swims,” Christensen said. “It’s nice and relaxing.

“My goals are to keep dropping times and improving my technique. I would like to move up to the Bronze Group by the time I turn 13.”

Christensen loves her “second family” at SOFLO.

“I love my friends, they encourage me to do better every single day,” she said. “Coach Luis is is wonderful. I think he cares a lot about his swimmers and he is so funny.”

Christensen would like to swim in high school and college. Her long range goal is to swim in the Olympics.

“When I am in the pool, one thing I love about swimming is that I think about nothing else but swimming,” Christensen said. “It’s so peaceful in the water. It gives me peace of mind.

“When I see swimmers in front of me it makes me want to go faster to try and catch them.”

Christensen trains six days a week like most of her teammates. Her 7-year-old brother Preston is taking swim lessons at SOFLO in addition to mixed martial arts.

“I would like him to enjoy swimming as much as I do with my team,” she said.

“I am having fun at the meets. I really enjoyed getting into a few finals. It was cool to see my name on the board. I was a little intimidated by some of the other girls. They were really big. I am 5-2.”

School ends in June for Christensen, who is looking forward to summer training while keeping up her reading.

“I love to read, I am a book worm,” said Christensen, who is currently reading Serafina and the Twisted Staff by Robert Beatty, a former No. 1 New York Times best seller. “I read all the time at practice and swim meets.”

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 sha11cats@aol.com


AQUATIC NOTEBOOK: USA Swimming Extends Sponsorship With TYR

By Sharon Robb

January 24, 2017—USA Swimming, the sport’s national governing body, has extended its’ sponsorship with TYR through 2020.

The global swimming brand will serve as an official sponsor of USA Swimming for technical products and performance apparel.

“TYR Sport is honored to continue its’ role as a sponsor of USA Swimming,” said CEO Matt DiLorenzo.

“Through our collaborative efforts we are confident that we will continue to advance the sport of swimming well into the future.”

South Florida Aquatic Club, one of the state’s largest and most diverse USA Swimming clubs, signed with TYR in July 2015. SOFLO was among the first teams in Florida to sign.

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

TYR (pronounced tier) is named after a mythical Norse god of warriors and deity among all athletes.

The TYR brand embodies the competitive spirit of sports and is a symbol of courage, law, bravery and victory.

Since 1985, TYR has provided performance swimsuits to elite athletes.

Co-founded by 1972 Olympic medalist Steve Furniss, a USA Swimming co-captain of the 1976 U.S. Olympic team, and swim wear manufacturer Joseph DiLorenzo, TYR has been involved in full-body technical suit research and development for the past four Olympic Games.

TYR is known for its design of the customized iconic red swimsuit worn by the cast of the popular show Baywatch, featuring David Hasselhoff.

TYR is dedicated to redefining the next generation of performance and recreational swimwear and accessories.

TYR offers performance swim apparel for active enthusiasts of all ages from grass roots to masters, and interests.

TYR swim wear collections include performance, triathlon, children’s, men’s shorts and fitness.

The swim wear and accessory colors are vibrant and design is state-of-the-art. The swim wear features hydrosphere technology, speedy dry fabric and supersonic flex bonding.

TYR swim wear is made by swimmers for swimmers which makes its’ five-and-a-half year contract with SOFLO a perfect fit.

SOFLO is one of the best-dressed and well-equipped teams on the pool deck. TYR also sponsors SOFLO’s monthly TYR Swimmer of the Month.

TYR will be present at all top USA Swimming sanctioned events including the Phillips 66 National Championships, Winter National Championships and 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials.

TYR also sponsors the USA Swimming Foundation and has a key role in providing equipment at USA Swimming’s various camps and clinics.

College swimming
Pine Crest alum Brooke Bernstein of Fort Lauderdale was named to the Tufts NESCAC Conference team. The championship meet is Feb. 10-12 at Bowdoin College in Brunswick Maine. The sprint freestyler is a freshman….Adan Diaz of Westlake Prep School and Azura Florida Aquatics verbally committed to Nova Southeastern University…On Saturday morning, University of Florida will host its one and only home dual meet this season against Tennessee. The Gators will also honor their senior class before the meet…Pfeiffer University, latest member of Division III and USA South Conference, has reinstated its women’s swimming program. Amy Prior has been hired as head coach. The team will begin competition this fall.

PowerBar is featuring Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte in his new Clean Start campaign. The year-long Clean Start pledge is designed to inspire and motivate everyone to move forward from the past and better themselves in 2017. The brand is introducing the new Clean Whey Bars. Lochte is featured in 60, 30 and 15-second off-beat videos reflecting on his journey and hopes of wiping away the past and starting clean in 2017. Other Team PowerBar members will also share their Clean Start stories on social media. Lochte is awaiting the birth of his first child, a son in October with fiancé Kayla Rae Reid. Lochte, 32, is four months into his 10-month suspension from swimming for his infamous fake robbery scandal during the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics. Lochte expects to move with his family from Charlotte to Los Angeles to train with Conor Dwyer in the near future.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com


By Sharon Robb

December 26, 2016—Yannai Michael was determined to do well at last month’s Florida Gold Coast Speedo Winter Championships at Plantation Aquatic Complex.

“The meet was hosted by my previous team and I wanted to show how much I improved,” Michael said.

Mission accomplished for the 12-year-old Imagine Charter School seventh grader and Bronze Group member.

Michael had his best short course meet of his young swim life. He competed in eight events in the 11-12 age group.

On a chilly opening night, Michael broke 30 seconds for the first time in the 50-yard butterfly. He finished tenth in a best time 29.54, dropping 1.08 seconds off his previous best of 30.62.

“It was a big deal for Yannai to break 30 seconds, that was a nice swim for him,” said SOFLO head coach Chris Anderson.

Also that night, Michael was fourth in the 50-yard breaststroke in 33.68, another best time with a 0.22 drop.

On Day Two, Michael finished second in the 200-yard breaststroke in 2:31.58, dropping 5:35. Michael was seventh in the 100-yard freestyle in 58.17 after swimming a best time 58.16 in prelims, dropping 0.49.

On Day Three he was second in the 100-yard breaststroke in a best time 1:09.47 and fifth in the 100-yard backstroke in 1:07.66.

On the fourth and final day, Michael swam back-to-back best times in the 200-yard individual medley prelims and finals and finished third in 2:18.17, the first time he cracked the 2:20 mark, dropping 5.25. He was also seventh in the 500-yard freestyle in a best time 5:39.73, dropping 1.79 and anchored the fifth place 200-yard freestyle relay.

Michael finished eighth in the competitive 11-12 high point awards division with 48 points.

“I like to compete, but I always get nervous,” Michael said. “I think I was confident about myself going into this meet. I knew how hard I worked.”

Michael said his most satisfying event was the 200 IM.

“I think because I finished third, I put a lot of effort into that and dropped a lot of time,” he said. “It’s a really special event for me because it combines all the strokes. My race was really exciting because I beat the guy who came in fourth by only 1/100th of a second.”

Michael has been swimming for four and a half years. He has improved since joining SOFLO and working with Coach Rose Lockie and Bronze Group.

“Coach Rose is one of the best coaches I ever had,” Michael said. “She is really fun and really funny. She is always there, whether she is sick or not, to coach us and help out with the team. She’s always pushing me to go faster and faster, pushing me to my limits.

“I know I am improving with SOFLO. There is a really nice team spirit. Every one are good friends and teammates. I am glad I am here.”

Michael competed in taekwondo, tennis and soccer but said “I always loved the water and really liked swimming,” so he committed to swimming.

“It’s a fun sport and you don’t really get injuries,” Michael said. “It helps me stay in shape and healthy because I get to work on my muscles in my legs and arms. It’s a very fun sport.”

His 7-year-old sister Ella swims with the Dippers. “I help her sometimes, but I think overall she is doing pretty good,” Michael said.

Michael is looking forward to Junior Olympics in March. He has five time standards.

“I turn 13 a week before JOs, so I get to swim in a new age group, so that’s going to be kind of exciting,” Michael said.

“My goals are to have fun, make friends and maybe get a college scholarship,” Michael said.

“I like watching swimming. Michael Phelps is someone who inspires me. The fact that he got his first world record when he was only 15 and now he’s old and has so many medals.”

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

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

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com



By Sharon Robb

November 10, 2016—Juan Enrique Colmenares’ passion for swimming started at an early age in his native Venezuela.

The South Florida Aquatic Club swimmer started swimming when he was 3-years-old at Aqua Baby. Five years later, he was already competing in meets for Hogar Hispano Swimming Club in Valencia, Venezuela.

Colmenares swam all four strokes and events but his best were the sprints.

The Pembroke Pines Franklin Academy eighth grader came to SOFLO in March 2016 and has been excelling ever since.

Colmenares, 12, also a clarinet player, competed in his first meet, the Florida Gold Coast Junior Olympics Short Course Championships in Coral Springs. Even though he didn’t make finals, Colmenares was encouraged and motivated for the future.

“I felt sad after the meet because I thought I could do better and qualify for finals,” Colmenares said. “When the meet finished I set my new goal to improve all my times as soon as possible so I could get to the finals in my next meet. I worked hard every day with that goal in mind.”

Colmenares enjoys working with Coach Rose Lockie and training with his talented and fun teammates.

“Coach Rose’s expectations are high, but that’s the idea,” Colmenares said. “All my teammates are awesome. I want to be a great swimmer. Every day I am eager to get in the pool and do my best.

“At SOFLO we train hard and more hours than my last club in Venezuela. Here, the swimming level is very competitive. This is where I want to be.”

His progress has been remarkable. In July, Colmenares competed in seven events at the FGC Junior Olympics Long Course Championships in Stuart. He qualified for six finals: 50- and 100-meter butterfly, 50- and 100-meter freestyle, 50-meter backstroke and 200-meter individual medley.

“I was very happy with my results,” Colmenares said. “It showed that I am beginning to reach my goals. I still have more to improve so I can reach the top three places.”

In the SOFLO Halloween Open, the versatile Colmenares competed in the distance events. He swam the 1,650 freestyle, 200 butterfly, 200 breaststroke, 200 backstroke and 200 freestyle.

“I felt good with how I swam,” Colmenares said. “Now I like both the sprint and distance events.”

Colmenares was excited when he learned the coaching staff had selected him as TYR Swimmer of the Month. He thanked his coaches and also his parents for supporting him to reach his goals.

“I will continue giving my best,” Colmenares said. “As my coach likes to say, “I will swim with my heart and passion.”

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 sha11cats@aol.com



By Sharon Robb

October 13, 2016—Ervin Marin is a perfect example of where hard work can get you in and out of the pool.

The South Florida Aquatic Club swimmer is a two-time Academic All-American with a 4.0 grade point average at Mater Academy Lakes in Hialeah where he is a senior.

As a member of SOFLO’s National Group, the 16-year-old has steadily improved and qualified for his first USA Swimming Junior Nationals in December.

As a member of his high school swimming team, Marin is working to qualify for his fourth state meet appearance in the 200-yard individual medley and 100-yard breaststroke.

“When I compete I want to do the best I can,” Marin said. “I don’t want to seem like I am struggling and not giving it 100 percent.

“I always wanted to get better,” Marin said. “First I started with getting my time standards in Sectionals and then Futures and then I wanted to get to Junior Nationals and I did.”

SOFLO head coach Chris Anderson has been impressed with Marin’s work ethic since he joined the club in 2013.

“His versatility during training has helped him excel in his IM events,” Anderson said. “He has a very promising college career ahead of him.”

Marin took swim lessons at age 6 at the encouragement of his mother, who wanted him to be water safe. At age 11 he started getting serious about his swimming. He joined SOFLO two years later. He gave up soccer and jujitsu to focus solely on swimming.

“I just started getting better,” Marin said. “I saw I was improving a lot more and thought I could do something.”

Marin got his Junior Nationals cut at this year’s Futures meet. He got his cut in the 200 individual medley by more than a second. “My teammates really motivated me at that meet,” Marin said.

In club swimming, Marin competes in the 200 and 400 IMs, 200 freestyle, 200 breaststroke and 100 butterfly. In his school, he swims the 200 IM and 100 breaststroke.

“My main focus is junior nationals but I am also focused on high school,” Marin said. “I had been trying really hard to get my junior national time and now I can go.”

Swimming has not only provided Marin with discipline when it comes to managing his time and schoolwork but also camaraderie with his teammates.

“I like being with my friends at practices,” Marin said. “I see other people getting better and that makes me want to get better. It pushes me. They go faster and it makes me want to catch them. It’s a competitive atmosphere and we all motivate each other. I always want to get better and improve my times.”

Marin said SOFLO has played a huge role in his improvement.

“I really like it, I am glad I switched from my old club,” he said. “I was getting tired of my old team. I feel great being here. The coaches are great. The training is great. In our group everybody tries, nobody slacks off.”

Each TYR Swimmer of the Month receives a free TYR backpack. TYR, a USA manufacturer of recreational and competitive swimwear, caps, goggles, triathlon gear and accessories, is one of the nation’s top companies.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com



By Sharon Robb

July 4, 2016—Mariann Catalasan is breathing easy since she took up swimming four years ago at South Florida Aquatic Club.

Her doctor suggested she start swimming to help with her severe asthma that had her frequently visiting the hospital emergency room.

Catalasan, 10, a member of the Asteroids, has improved her lung capacity and breathing which has led to her improvement in swimming.

The Franklin Academy fifth grader got her first Junior Olympic cut in the 100 breaststroke at the Jesse Vassallo Invite in Pompano Beach.

“I was really happy because I got into the Junior Olympics so now I can compete,” Catalasan said.

Since the Jesse Vassallo meet, Catalasan got her second JO cut in the 50 breaststroke with a best time.

Catalasan is also seconds away from getting her cut in the backstroke which she hopes to swim at the July 9-10 Area 3 Championships in Islamorada, a last chance meet for swimmers trying to get cuts before the July 15-17 FGC Junior Olympics.

“I’m glad I started swimming,” Catalasan said. “My doctor recommended it because I got sick a lot. He said it was good for my lungs. I haven’t been in the hospital for three years.”

No one is happier about that than her mother, Grace, who has watched her daughter’s health and swimming improve at the same time.

“We wanted her to learn how to swim to be safe,” Grace Catalasan said. “When her asthma started in the fall the physician told us not to stop swimming, that it would help her asthma.

“At first she was just swimming for her health. Her lungs got better. We haven’t been to the hospital for three years. For us it’s the greatest thing. If she was not a swimmer I think her asthma would be worse. Now that she is breathing, she is trying to get better. I love being a swim mom and seeing her healthy.”

Swimming is a healthy form of aerobic exercise for people with asthma, especially for those whose symptoms are triggered by outdoor allergies or cold temperatures.

The advantages of water-based exercise for people with asthma include breathing warm, humid air. Research suggests that swimming regularly may improve lung function in people with asthma.

Catalasan credits her coaches for her improvement in the pool. After watching this past week’s U.S. Olympic Trials on television, she is more motivated than ever.

“I like being in the water and making friends,” she said. “I liked watching all the other swimmers try for the Olympics. I want to keep getting better so I can swim in high school, college and Olympics.”

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

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com