American Heritage may have graduated some talented swimmers, but head coach Nobutaka Tan isn’t ready to use the word “rebuilding” just yet.
The three-time defending state 2A boys champion team returns a talented group that includes C.J. Kopecki, Sebastian Vargas, Nico Pacitti and Christian Rossi and picked up transfer Kevin Porto from Mater Academy. There are also eight freshmen including Juan Serna who could help fill in the holes.
“We do have a bull’s eye on our chest,” Tan said. “I am not going to say we are golden. We are going to stay low key and take a little different approach this season. We are going to do the best we can and see where that takes us.”
Kopecki, a junior and three-year varsity swimmer, was one of the Patriots’ top point scorers at last year’s state meet. He was third in the 500-yard freestyle (4:35.71), eighth in the 200-yard freestyle (1:42.64) and was a member of the state champion 400-yard freestyle relay.
With so much talent, Broward County is expected to have one of its strongest seasons in history.
Pine Crest boys are coming off a remarkable season in the 1A competition.
After finishing 12th at the 2014 state meet, the lowest finish in veteran coach Jay Fitzgerald’s 21-year career at Pine Crest, the Panthers turned it around with five swimmers and four divers to finish runner-up to powerhouse Jacksonville Bolles. Pine Crest also won the district crown and was region runner-up.
“We were probably as depleted as we could be two years ago and that was the lowest I have been as a team,” Fitzgerald said. “Last year I did my best coaching job with five guys and four divers. We did not have a whole lot of guys. That was the first time I outwitted and outfoxed everyone.
“It was a great achievement for my boys,” Fitzgerald said. “They bought into the team concept of swimming only one individual event so they could swim on all three relays to score the most points.”
The Panthers lost three of the five swimmers off last year’s team but have added some new quality swimmers with Elvis Kotikovski, Nico Ferrara and Nicholas Vale. The Panthers return senior Joao Vitos Pereira and junior Christian Soderberg, two members off last year’s 200-yard medley relay that finished third at the state meet; Dane Gailitis and divers Kevin Mendes, a USA Diving national age group champion, and Lyle Hayes-Macaluso.
“We have some good new swimmers coming in,” Fitzgerald said. “I think we are a little more spread out across the board this year. We have somebody who can be a player in every event. Our relays will be very competitive and podium-worthy. Our divers, Kevin Mendes is a young promising diver and Lyle Hayes-Macaluso has scored at every state meet. We actively support our diving program and we do understand it is called swimming and diving.
“Our boys team should be one of the stronger teams in South Florida and one of the Top five in the state.”
University School returns a strong one-two punch with Patrick Groters and Daniel Jacobs who both competed internationally for Aruba this past summer. Groters, a junior, won his first state title in the 200-yard individual medley and was fourth in the 500-yard freestyle.
Groters, the youngest brother of Missouri standout Jordy, won four gold medals and four silver medals at the June 29-July 4 XXI Caribbean Islands Swimming Championships in Nassau. He broke eight national open records, one individual and two relay meet records.
“It was a breakthrough meet and confidence-builder for me,” Groters said. “I am looking forward to high school, I hope the target on my back stays there. I am hoping to carry over this success to the high school season.”
Two-time state champion Zach Allen of Cardinal Gibbons hopes to finish his high school career with another 1-meter springboard title. At last year’s state meet Allen recorded the ninth-highest total (617.30) in state history. South Plantation senior three-time state champion Logan Downey returns to defend his 4A state title.
Fort Lauderdale returns senior Philippe Marcoux, a member of the state 3A champion 400-yard freestyle relay, state runner-up 200-yard freestyle relay team and third-place finisher in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle events.
BROWARD BOYS SWIMMING
ATHLETES TO WATCH
Zach Allen, Cardinal Gibbons; Max Asnis, University School; Sam Asnis, University School; Tyler Bland, Pembroke Pines Charter; Juan Diaz, Cypress Bay; Hudson Coldren, Cardinal Gibbons; Adan Diaz-Vazquez, Westlake Prep; Logan Downey, South Plantation; Nico Ferrara, Pine Crest; Dane Gailitis, Pine Crest; Patrick Groters, University School; Andres Lares, Pembroke Pines Charter; Lyle Hayes-Macaluso, Pine Crest; Daniel Jacobs, University School; Wyatt Jennessee, Archbishop McCarthy; C.J. Kopecki, American Heritage; Elvis Kotikovski, Pine Crest; Andres Lares, Pembroke Pines Charter; Juan Lucas, Pembroke Pines Charter; Philippe Marcoux, Fort Lauderdale; Kevin Mendez, Pine Crest; Devin Nugent, St. Thomas Aquinas; Nicolas Pacitti, American Heritage; Matt Petreski, Pine Crest; Kevin Porto, American Heritage; Samuel Quintero, Sagemont; Ricardo Roche, Pembroke Pines Charter; Rafael Rodriguez, Pembroke Pines Charter; Christian Rossi, American Heritage; Juan Serna, American Heritage; Christian Soderberg, Pine Crest; Nicholas Vale, Pine Crest; Sebastian Vargas, American Heritage; Joao Vitor Pereira, Pine Crest; Juan Zapata, St. Thomas Aquinas; Tyler Zuyus, Fort Lauderdale.
DEFENDING STATE CHAMPIONS
Class 4A: Buchholz (girls), Sarasota Riverview (boys).
Class 3A: Gainesville (girls), Doral Academy Charter (boys).
Class 2A: Gulliver Prep (girls), Plantation American Heritage (boys).
Class 1A: Bolles (girls), Bolles (boys).
Sept. 10, St. Andrew’s Invitational
Sept. 14, Calvary Christian, American Heritage at Pine Crest
Sept. 17, Bolles Bulldog Invitational
Sept. 17, Shark Invite at University School
Sept. 21, American Heritage, Doral, Mater Academy at MCD
Sept. 23, Bolles at Pine Crest
Sept. 24, Woodson Invitational at Pine Crest
Sept. 28, Archbishop McCarthy at American Heritage
Sept. 30, University School at Pine Crest
Sept. 30-Oct. 1, FSPA High School Developmental Invitational, Orlando
Oct. 1, Catholic Championships, Orlando
Oct. 4, Coral Glades at St. Thomas Aquinas
Oct. 5, Pompano Beach at St. Thomas Aquinas
Oct. 5, Pine Crest at Gulliver Prep
Oct. 8, BCAA Championships, Plantation Central Park
Oct. 17-22, District 3A, 4A Meets
Oct. 24-29, District 1A, 2A Meets
Oct. 24-29, Region 3A, 4A Meets
Oct. 31-Nov. 5, Region 1A, 2A Meets
Nov. 4, Class 3A State Meet, Sailfish Splashpark, Stuart
Nov. 5, Class 4A State Meet, Sailfish Splashpark, Stuart
Nov. 11, Class 1A State Meet, Sailfish Splashpark, Stuart
Nov. 12, Class 2A State Meet, Sailfish Splashpark, Stuart