Margalis keeps eye on Olympics

Published March 11, 2007

Catching up with Robert Margalis Clearwater/Georgia may not be easy, especially if he's in the swimming pool.

Last weekend, the 2005 Georgia graduate broke two American freestyle swimming records in the Florida Senior Championships held in Clearwater.

First, the 25-year-old broke the 1,000-yard freestyle American record set in 2001 and then the 1,650-yard free. By the time the weekend was over, Margalis also had won the 200 butterfly and the 200 individual medley events as well as the 800-yard free relay. He was second in the 200 free and both the 400 medley relay and the 400 free relay. Margalis was the meet's male high-point swimmer.

"This meet is really helping me get ready for Senior Nationals later this month in Long Island, N.Y.," Margalis said. "It's a great opportunity for me to compete at home before a big meet."

After graduating from Georgia, where he collected 11 All-America honors and an NCAA national title, Margalis stayed in the area to train. In September, he returned to St. Petersburg to train with longtime coach Fred Lewis with the St. Petersburg Aquatics Club.

"It was always in the future for Robert to move back home and train," said Lewis, who has worked with Margalis since he was 9. "He's an extremely hard worker and has always wanted to do things correctly. That's the mark of a champion."

Last summer, Margalis swam a lifetime best in the 400 IM with a time of 4:12.9, and three years earlier won a silver medal in the event in the Pan Pacific Games. This summer, Margalis will compete in his second Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Margalis' stellar work ethic includes swimming as many as 35,000 yards weekly before a big meet to 100,000 in between. His ultimate goal is to make the Olympics - he has been to the Olympic trials twice - and he has the 2008 Olympics in sight.

"There are still swimmers competing at my age and older," Margalis said, "although about 90 percent stop at the age of 22 after college when the financial backing drops. I'm fortunate that I'm able to work full time on my swimming. It would be very difficult to combine training with a job. But as long as I see myself improving and I'm having fun, I'll keep going."

Helping Margalis work toward his goal are sponsorships with TYR, Power Bar and Vasa. He also relies on his wife, the former Beth Grains, who earned All-America honorable mention swimming for Georgia, to be the primary breadwinner.

Swimming has provided Margalis with opportunities to travel to areas such as China, Italy, Japan and Canada. This summer, after the Pan American Games in Brazil, he and Beth plan to enjoy a delayed honeymoon. Then, he said, it's back to the pool.

MORE SWIMMING: Florida junior Grant Johnson (Clearwater) was named to the All-SEC first team. At the SEC championships, Johnson clocked a time of 1:35.23 for a second-place finish in the 200-meter freestyle, 15:21.32 for a fourth in the 1,650 free and swam the first leg on the first-place 800 free relay team with a nation's best 6:22.31.

- Sophomore Peter Wellings (Palm Harbor University) helped his MIT squad to a second-place finish in the NEWMAC conference championships. Wellings was sixth in the 100 free and ninth in the 50 and 200 freestyle events. Wellings and his teammates were second in the 200 and 800 free relay events and third in the 400 free relay.

DIVING: Florida divers Whitney Stern (Parsippany) of Safety Harbor, a sophomore, and junior Sarah Ellerby (East Lake) were 24th and 25th, respectively, in the 1-meter dive at the NCAA Zone B diving championships.

BASKETBALL: Georgia State's senior team captain Kelcey Roegiers-Jensen (Boca Ciega) tossed in 17 points and recorded a career-high seven steals in a loss to Old Dominion. This weekend, the squad is the No. 8 seed in the 12-team Colonial Athletic conference tournament.

- Freshman A.J. Tyler (Palm Harbor University) is averaging four minutes per game with the Clemson Tigers. This season, the 6-9 forward posted eight points in a win over Western Carolina.

- Tyler's older brother Garrett (Palm Harbor University) is a reserve guard and forward for Florida.

- Marreese Speights (Gibbs/Admiral Farragut/Hargrove Military Academy) has seen action in all but four of Florida's games. The freshman is averaging 3.5 minutes and 2.5 points per game.

BASEBALL: Saint Leo catcher Ricky Nolan (Seminole) collected three hits, an RBI and scored a run in the 11-3 win over St. Anselm. The junior is third on the team in hitting average (.385) and second in RBIs with 11.

Last month, Nolan went 2-3 with an RBI and run in a 6-2 win over Concordia-St. Paul.

- Righthander Chris Gutierrez (St. Petersburg Catholic) has made three appearances with the Saint Leo squad.

SOFTBALL: After LSU pitcher Dani Hofer (Palm Harbor University) hurled her second no-hitter against Missouri State last month, the sophomore was named the school's female athlete of the week, MVP of the Easton Purple and Gold Challenge and SEC pitcher of the week.

Hofer followed this with a complete game against Portland State, allowing just one hit to raise her record to 8-0.

- Shannan Tyson (Seminole) connected for a pair of hits in a doubleheader win for Francis Marion against Georgia Southwestern. The sophomore third baseman is averaging .327 at the plate.

TRACK: For the second consecutive season, Georgia Tech's Ashlee Kidd (St. Petersburg) was named the ACC's most valuable performer at the Indoor Track Championships. The senior won the 400-meter dash for the third time in four years and the 200-meter race.

In last month's Iowa State NCAA qualifier, Kidd ran a personal best and an NCAA qualifying time of 52.10 in the 400-meter event.

Through today, Kidd is competing in the NCAA Indoor Championships in Fayetteville, Ark., in the 200- and 400-meter races.

News for this column may be faxed to Nancy Morgan, 445-4119; e-mailed to namorgan@tampabay.rr.com or sent to 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756. Please include phone number.