January 14, 2012
WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
Xavier Brown of the South Florida Aquatic Club is following in the footsteps of teammate Alia Atkinson as a role model for black athletes in swimming.
The well-spoken Everglades High School senior chose swimming over track and field to help break the stereotype that has plagued black athletes for years in swimming.
Brown is leading by example in the pool. On Saturday at the Jaked Senior Long Course Meters Invitational at Nova Southeastern University Aquatic Complex, the 17-year-old turned in two impressive lifetime bests with two breakthrough swims after a five-month break last year.
Brown bettered his 50-meter butterfly from 28.66 to 27.73 for a fifth-place finish and 100-meter freestyle time from 58.53 to 56.18, good for 13th place. His strongest events are the 50- and 100 freestyles and 50- and 100 butterfly
“I’m excited, I think those are all the words I can find right now,” Brown said after climbing out of the pool. “This is by far the biggest meet I have been in.”
With no benefit of swimming high school, Brown has built his swimming career solely through club swimming. He attended Miramar High School for two seasons but the swim team disbanded. He transferred to Everglades that also dropped its swim program.
“I missed swimming in high school a lot but I made up for it in club swimming,” Brown said. “While everyone else was swimming high school, I was swimming club every day.”
Brown took a five-month break last year when he got a job. He found it difficult juggling swim workouts.
“I think my biggest accomplishment was just getting back in the pool,” Brown said. “Coming back and being able to drop over 20 seconds I think by far is the biggest achievement I’ve had.”
Brown, a former sprinter and miler in track, was 13 when he started swimming at Miramar Regional Park and then moved over to the Comets program and now SOFLO.
“In the beginning there was a lot of crying and muscle cramps but after the pain there is just love for the sport,” Brown said. “That’s where I am right now, just love.
“I am just a water kid, everything about water is me,” Brown said. “I was running track and field for a while. My parents told me it was either swimming or track. I chose the thing I love the most. I am very happy I went with swimming.”
Brown is on a mission to break the “black athletes” stereotype.
“I am one of the swimmers who wants to break away from the stereotype that people of color run track, play basketball and play football,” Brown said. “I think people stick to the mold that they know and swimming is not the mold many colored people understand.
“I want to break away from that so people can look up to black athletes in other sports,” Brown said. “I like to think of myself as a role model. I am happy when I come to these meets and I see the little black kid and he says, ‘wow, great swim.’ It makes me feel happy and gets me more empowered to swim harder just from that one little kid that looked up at me.”
The Miami-born Brown, at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, hopes to swim in college this fall. He is looking at out-of-state colleges including Augustine College in Illinois. “They have shown a lot of interest in me, so I am happy right now,” Brown said.
Atkinson met Brown last year. “His demeanor is so happy-go-lucky all the time, he is great to be around,” she said. “We know he can go far.”
Atkinson, 23, a two-time Jamaican Olympian, broke the pool and meet records in the 100-meter breaststroke in 1:10.46. The previous record was 1:17.60 by Patricia Casellas of Davie Nadadores. Atkinson also won the Top Female Performance Award based on the highest FINA point score in a single event.
It was her first meet since the Dec. 1-3 AT&T Winter National Championships in Atlanta.
“This was more of a get-up-on-the-blocks, get some sprint in it and see how I do,” Atkinson said.
With 194 days to go until the London Olympics, Atkinson knows it’s crunch time.
“Basically, every meet I go to and every time I get up and swim I have to attack it every single time,” Atkinson said. “The swims are limited now.”
Melissa Marinheiro, 14, turned in three lifetime bests in the 100-meter butterfly, winning her heat and placing seventh overall in 1:07.76, bettering her previous best of 1:09.01; 200-meter freestyle, third in 2:08.01 bettering her previous best of 2:10.55 and third in the 50-meter backstroke in a best time of 32.60, dropping from 34.49.
“I just wanted to have fun, be with my friends and try to go for best times,” said Marinheiro, who is preparing for the FGC Junior Olympics. “I’ve been training so hard. I was happiest with my 200 free. The cold weather didn’t bother me, I just had to warm myself up more. I like competing against older swimmers to see what I need to do to get myself better.”
The first 2012 FINA-sanctioned Olympic qualifying meet on the east coast, featured 223 swimmers, 18 teams, seven countries and three states.
After an early-morning training workout, SOFLO’s 20-swimmer contingent braved the cold to turn in some solid performances against U.S. and international competition. In addition to Atkinson, Brown and Marinheiro, several other SOFLO swimmers posted lifetime best times. They were:
Alfredo Mesa, 13, 200-meter individual medley, 2:34.94 (2:38.50 previous best); 100-meter freestyle, 1:00.81 (1:01.39 previous best) and 50-meter butterfly, 31.10 (33.27).
Jordan Colon, 14, 200-meter individual medley, 2:35.18 (2:36.62).
Leonie Davies, 15, 200-meter freestyle, 2:14.92 (2:15.43) and 50-meter backstroke, 34.68 (35.74).
Maria Lopez, 16, 200-meter freestyle, 2:17.92 (2:19.82).
Gustavo Valery, 13, 100-meter backstroke, 1:09.45 (1:10.38) and 50-meter breaststroke, 39.99 (49.30).
Matthew Gonzalez, 17, 100-meter backstroke, 1:14.15 (1:14.75) and 100-meter freestyle, 1:00.70 (1:01.48).
Alex Monti, 13, 200-meter breaststroke, 2:53.86 (3:08.47) and 50-meter breaststroke, 36.85 (41.18).
Jessie Alcaide, 27, 100-meter butterfly, 1:03.91 (1:04.11).
Luana Cabral, 20, 50-meter backstroke, 35.47 (39.01).
Cristian Rossi, 13, 50-meter butterfly, 32.39 (32.44).
Also during the meet, Cuba’s Rafael Castillo, coming off the 2011 Parapan American Games in Mexico, broke a pending para-swimming American record in the 200-meter individual medley in 3:19.17. Castillo, 25, of the Devilrays Swim Club of Homstead, competes with one arm and one leg.
SESSION TWO RESULTS
200-meter individual medley: 1. Yousef Alaskari, DANA 2:11.16, 2. Jordy Groters, DANA 2:12.76, 3. Daniel Roa, DANA 2:15.46; SOFLO: 5. Marc Rojas 2:22.48, 11. Julien Pinon 2:25.16, 26. Matthew Gonzalez 2:32.92, 30. Jacob Walters 2:34.85, 32. Alfredo Mesa 2:34.94, 33. Jordan Colon 2:35.18.
100-meter backstroke: 1. Yousef Alaskari, DANA 1:00.43, 2. Lucas Brito, DANA 1:03.47, 3. Luiz Pedro Ribeiro Pereira, DANA 1:03.93; SOFLO: 13. Gustavo Valery 1:09.45, 25. Matthew Gonzalez 1:14.15.
200-meter breaststroke: 1. Felipe Lima, DANA 2:26.02, 2. Marc Rojas, SOFLO 2:39.46, 3. Michal Rokita, Pine Crest 2:40.42; SOFLO: 8. Alex Monti 2:53.86, 13. Jordan Colon 2:57.94, 14. Roger Capote 2:59.15.
200-meter butterfly: 1. Daniel Roa, DANA 2:11.54, 2. Lucas Brito, DANA 2:11.66, 3. Ronald Santos, Rockway 2:15.24; SOFLO: 12. Jacob Walters 2:32.17.
100-meter freestyle: 1. Daniele Tirabassi, DANA 53.55, 2. Marcos Antonio Macedo, DANA 53.76, 3. Raul Martinez, DANA 53.90; SOFLO: 13. Xavier Brown 56.18, 16. Julien Pinon 56.84, 33. Matthew Gonzalez 1:00.70, 37. Alfredo Mesa 1:00.81, 50. Cristian Rossi 1:02.48, 52. Gustavo Valery 1:03.03, 54. Alex Monti 1:03.62, 63. Roger Capote 1:05.61.
50-meter breaststroke: 1. Felipe Lima, DANA 29.57, 2. Jordy Groters, DANA 32.00, 3. Vaughn Forsythe, DANA 32.22; SOFLO: 13. Alex Monti 36.85, 17. Jordan Colon 37.80, 20. Cristian Rossi 38.58,28. Gustavo Valery 39.99.
50-meter butterfly: 1. Marcos Antonio Macedo, DANA 26.30, 2. Emman Crescimbeni, Unattached 26.42, 3. Thales Antunes, Unattached 27.24; SOFLO: 5. Xavier Brown 27.73, 26. Alfredo Mesa 31.10, 32. Cristian Rossi 32.39.
400-meter freestyle: 1. Daniele Tirabassi, DANA 4:08.35, 2. Yousef Alaskari, DANA 4:14.08, 3. Raul Martinez, DANA 4:14.10.
200-meter freestyle: 1. Chiara Ruiu, DANA 2:05.11, 2. Jennifer Marquez, DANA 2:05.90, 3. Melissa Marinheiro, SOFLO 2:08.01; SOFLO: 6. Marcella Marinheiro 2:12.21, 13. Leonie Davies 2:14.92, 18. Maria Lopez 2:17.92, 25. Jessica Rodriguez 2:22.17, 27. Haley Wright 2:22.58, 40. Luana Cabral 2:34.40.
200-meter backstroke: 1. Emily Kopas, DANA 2:28.82, 2. Alana Berrocal, Pine Crest 2:29.97, 3. Marcella Marinheiro, SOFLO 2:30.15.
100-meter breaststroke: 1. Alia Atkinson, SOFLO 1:10.46, 2. Julie Stupp, Performance Aquatics 1:13.82, 3. Daniela Victoria, DANA 1:15.49; SOFLO: 17. Jessica Rodriguez 1:25.08.
100-meter butterfly: 1. Julie Stupp, Performance Aquatics 1:03.56, 2. Jessie Alcaide, SOFLO 1:03.91, 3. Alia Atkinson, SOFLO 1:04.17; 7. Melissa Marinheiro 1:07.76, 9. Maria Lopez 1:08.08.
50-meter freestyle: 1. Julie Stupp, Performance Aquatics 27.23, 2. Ally Ponson, Stingray 27.25, 3. Jessie Alcaide, SOFLO 28.11; SOFLO: 34. Haley Wright 32.25.
50-meter backstroke: 1. Jyotsna Pansare, DANA 32.17, 2. Marcella Marinheiro 32.34, 3. Melissa Marinheiro 32.60; SOFLO: 11. Leonie Davies 34.68, 12. Maria Lopez 35.04, 14. Luana Cabral 35.47.
400-meter individual medley: 1. Daniela Victoria, DANA 5:09.90, 2. Alina Schulhofer, DANA 5:15.07, 3. Lani Cabrera, DANA 5:17.10.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com.