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Pre-teen pair excel on swim team

One stars in breaststroke, the other in butterfly, two of the most difficult strokes for any swimmer.

By TERRY JONES
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 21, 2002


CARROLLWOOD -- Competitive swimming used to be an unpleasant experience for Stephen Brock and Vincent Donnelly. When the pair, age 10 and 11, started with the Carrollwood Swim Team several years ago, a lot of hard work and disappointments followed poor performances.

Not anymore.

Now the dynamic duo are tops among pre-teen swimmers in Hillsborough County and the state.

"I used to cry after a race, when I didn't do well," said Brock of Carrollwood. "But when I learned to just have fun and simply do my best, my times began to drop and now I enjoyed competing, whatever the outcome."

Brock is home-schooled and will be in the sixth grade in the fall. Donnelly, who lives in Country Estates, is entering eighth grade at St. Lawrence School. Both are straight A students and like to do well in competition.

"Both these guys have come a long way in the past couple years to become two of the top competitors in Florida," Carrollwood head coach Jim Kelly said. "A while back Grant Nelson, one of our top college prospects, saw Stephen crying after a race and said he should trim his goggle strap. Grant was just trying to cheer him up, but Stephen cut his strap and did better."

The duo excel in two of the most difficult strokes in the sport. Donnelly does the butterfly and Brock the breaststroke.

Initially, Donnelly said he despised the butterfly, because he was unable to coordinate his dolphin kick with his timing on his overhead stroke. To help him, Coach Randy Johnson put a large rubber-band type strap around Donnelly's legs to keep them together.

"The rubber band worked to help me develop a great kick and an even stroke," Donnelly said. "Now the butterfly is my favorite stroke and that is what I do best."

Earlier this month, Donnelly won the 10-and-under national championship in the 100-yard butterfly in Sarasota. He also won the national title in the 100-yard individual medley.

Brock captured the 50-yard breaststroke for the same age group.

"The breaststroke is my favorite, because I don't get so tired in a race," Brock said. "I get to glide more. It is just a cool stroke."

Up next for the two is the Summer Junior Olympics, July 18-21 at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Races in the summer events are measured in meters, winter events are measured in yards.

Donnelly has qualified to compete in the 50- and 100-meter butterfly, the 50 backstroke and the 50 freestyle. Brock has qualified for the 100 breaststroke, 50, 100 and 200 freestyle and 200 individual medley.

Both simply want to improve their best times.

"I just love swimming," Donnelly said. "Not only is it a fun sport, but it helps keep me strong and healthy with plenty of exercise."

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