During the first weekend in April, 125 members of the BGCNW Marlins swim team made their way to St. Petersburg, FL to compete in the annual Boys & Girls Clubs of America National Swimming Championship. The competition spanned over 2 ½ days in a 22-lane, 25-yard outdoor pool at the North Shore Aquatics Complex. Clubs from all over the U.S. were invited to participate and flocked into northwestern Florida for the event.
The Marlins team has held the title of BGCA National Champions since the year 2000. This year, they took home their 23rd consecutive victory. The team scored 12,000 points overall; a total of 3,000 points more than their previous average. In two events the entire championship final was comprised of Marlins swimmers.
Team member Erik Nadecki, a Junior at Horace Greeley High School, broke three meet records; for the Boys Senior 100 Breast and for the 200 Individual Medley and 400 Individual Medley. Ryan Sykes and Kelsey Grayson also won the individual high-point awards for 13-14 boys and girls respectively, while Connor McHugh and Lucy Walker were the respective high-point winners for Senior boys and girls.
The Marlins swim team is ranked Top 100 in the nation and has received USA Swimming Bronze Medal Status in 2021. In September 2022, Senator Peter Harckham presented the team with a proclamation in recognition of these achievements. With multiple members qualifying for the USA Swimming Summer Junior Nationals, it is likely the Marlins team will attain that status again this Fall.
“I am proud of the progress the team has made the past few years. Our recent success is a function of the culture of excellence we are developing together with the coaching staff, athletes, parent group, and Boys & Girls Club leadership. It is an extraordinarily unique situation here at the Boys & Girls Club, and I believe we are very fortunate to be a part of such a supportive organization that’s solely focused on providing opportunities for youth in our community,” says Marlins head coach, Zachary Hojnacki, PhD, who joined the BGCNW family in 2018. He arrived from Tucson, Arizona, where he had served as a coach for Tucson Ford Dealers Aquatics since 2012, including three years as Head Age Group Coach. Zac swam for the University of Arizona from 2009-2012, qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Trials in the 200 breaststroke, and the 2013 World Championship Trials in the 100 breaststroke. In 2017, he received a PhD in Educational Psychology from the University of Arizona, where he studied the role stress and mindfulness play on athlete performance under pressure. Zac is passionate about utilizing athlete education to develop a well-rounded, self-sufficient person in and out of the pool. He believes in adherence to long-term developmental principles is critical to maximize the capacity of swimmers to succeed in the sport and have healthy, sustainable careers so they can enjoy the benefits of being a swimmer for life.