Miami-Dade High Schools

Carrollton girls swimming team overcoming challenges

When former University of Miami swimmer Corinna Lallier arrived at Carrollton four years ago, she was a bit surprised at what she found.

The pool was not regulation size — Carrollton can’t hold meets there. Instead of 25 yards, the pool is about 30. And instead of being at least four feet deep, the Carrollton pool is half that at the shallow end.

But Lallier, who also teaches world history at the all-girls’ Catholic school, took it all in stride.

“I remember thinking, ‘Well, this is what we have to work with,’” said Lallier, a 25-year-old native of Minnesota. “Sometimes you have to make the best of things.”

Carrollton did just that last season, finishing 12th in the highly competitive Class 1A.

More good news is on the way for Carrollton this fall, when the new Wellness Center is expected to open.

Matt Alphage, who is in his eighth year as athletic director, said plans for the Wellness Center were in place before he arrived, and he credited the head of the school, Sister Suzanne Cooke, for making it happen.

The bottom line is that for the first time in the 52-year history of the school, the volleyball and basketball teams can play and practice on campus. Previously, they had practiced outdoors.

The new facility will also benefit the Carrollton swim team in terms of conditioning.

In the past, when thunderstorms hit – as they often do in South Florida – the Carrollton girls used the covered stairways to do calisthenics; they did lunges in empty classrooms and sprints down long hallways.

Now they will be able to use the Wellness Center, which also has a track and weight-room equipment.

There are no plans to build a new pool, however. The one they have is a protected historical building, so it will continue to be where the Carrollton girls practice. And there is limited space on campus to build anything new.

The Carrollton pool has only four lanes instead of the normal eight, which means practice is crowded with eight or nine girls using each lane.

In addition, because of how shallow the pool is at the ends, the kids can’t properly practice their flip turns.

“The turns are a huge part of swimming — getting in and off the wall,” Lallier said. “The girls’ hands sometimes hit the bottom when they flip.

“We also don’t have starting blocks. The girls dive off the side of the pool.”

Despite the challenges, Lallier said she senses excitement is growing at the school when it comes to the swim program. She has 29 girls on varsity and 15 in the junior high.

Five of the girls swim year-round, a number Lallier would love to see increase.

“We are a small school with great academics,” Lallier said. “It’s a great school to help kids get to college, but it’s nice to see the athlete part of a person come out as well.

“And even though it’s not regulation, we still have a beautiful pool.”


BELEN – Coach: Kirk Peppas; Last year: Class 3A state champs; Top swimmers: Alejandro Carriazo (So.); Miguel Basalo (Sr.); Bernardo Lima (Sr.); Noteworthy: Belen has won two straight state titles and seven in the past eight years.

COLUMBUS – Coach: Alex Alfonso; Last year: 18th; Top swimmers: Robert Ballestas (Sr.); Sam Hicks (Sr.); Noteworthy: Ballestas finished sixth at state last year in the 100 fly. His brother, Julian, now a sophomore at the University of Michigan, won two individual and three team state titles at Belen.

GULLIVER – Coach: Jeff Poppell; Last year: 12th; Top swimmers: Miguel Cancel (Fr.); Sean Arrington (Jr.); Ricky Hermida (Sr.); Noteworthy: Gulliver’s goal is to finish in the top 10 at state despite having a relatively young team.

HIALEAH – Coach: Alexander Donis: Last year: 20th; Top swimmers: Danny Cardenas (Sr.); David Lemus (Fr.); Noteworthy: Donis said this is a young, rebuilding team that lacks depth.

KROP – Coach: Ann Gordon: Last year: 15th; Top swimmer: Che Davis (Sr.); Noteworthy: This is a rebuilding year.

MIAMI COUNTRY DAY – Coach: Eric Nelson; Last year: 29th at state; Top swimmers: Alexis Goya (So.); Allesandro Marchesani (So); Demetri Spiliotis (Jr.); Noteworthy: Goya is the only returning state qualifier on a team that lacks enough year-round swimmers.

MOURNING – Coach: Max Respondek; Last year: NA; Top swimmers: Jonathan Rub (Sr.); Oniel Vaca-Gutierrez (Sr.); Daniel Scotese (Jr.); Noteworthy: Also watch for senior Aaron Hasson and a strong freshmen class.

RANSOM – Coach: Andy De Angulo; Last year: 27th; Top swimmers: Felipe Urrutia (Fr.); Matias Junghahn (So.); Jason Gould (So.); Noteworthy: Urrutia figures to be a contender at state.

SLAM CHARTER – Coach: Rachael Kraemer; Last year: 1-5; Top swimmers: Andrew Garcia (8th grade), Josten Median (8th grade), John Perez (Sr.); Noteworthy: This is just the second year of the program and the school’s first senior class.

SOUTH DADE – Coach: Sue Hinton; Last year: 6-1; Top swimmers: Jalen Watson (So.); Zachary Graves (So.); Calvin Frederick (So.); Noteworthy: Ten seniors graduated last spring, leaving behind a young team.


AMERICAN – Coach: Rosie Lopez; Last year: 16th; Top swimmers: Omaira German (Sr.); Genesis Pabon (Sr.); Karina Medina (Jr.); Noteworthy: German was ninth at state in the 100 fly.

CARROLLTON – Coach: Carinna Lallier; Last year: 12th regionals; Top swimmers: Sophia Giordano (So.); Gabriela Carratala (Fr.); Jessica Fernandez (Fr.); Noteworthy: Transfers Renata Peralta and Fernandez should help.

GULLIVER – Coach: Jeff Poppell; Last year: 4th; Top swimmers: Nicole Urquidi (Jr.); Namilla Sanchez (Jr.); Kelly Fertel (Jr.); Noteworthy: With nearly everyone back from last year’s strong team – plus the addition of transfer Fertel – Gulliver seeks its first state title in girls’ swimming.

HIALEAH – Coach: William J. Harrington; Last year: 9th; Top swimmer: Ashley Luy (Fr.); Noteworthy: Luy specializes in the 50 and 100 freestyle.

KROP – Coach: Jackie Hernandez: Last year: 15th; Top swimmers: Sydne Vigilte (Sr.); Amber Lubie (Jr.); Noteworthy: This is a rebuilding year.

LASALLE – Coach: Aimee Cerdeiras; Last year: NA; Top swimmer: Isabella Antonini (Sr.); Noteworthy: Antonini’s specialty is the 100 backstroke.

MIAMI COUNTRY DAY – Coach: Eric Nelson; Last year: 16th state; Top swimmers: Emma Rodriguez (Jr.); Madisyn Jones (Jr); Amelia Gregorio (So.); Noteworthy: Two state finalists graduated and only one state qualifier returns.

MOURNING – Coach: Louis Campagna; Last year: NA; Top swimmers: Mariana Lombello (Sr.); Nicole Mare (Sr.); Nina Latorre (So.); Noteworthy: It’s a year of transition at Mourning, where the boys’ and girls’ swim coaches are new.

RANSOM – Coach: Andy De Angulo; Last year: 4th; Top swimmers: Laine Morgan (Sr.); Kyla Valls (So.); Carlotta Verita (Jr.); Noteworthy: Morgan and Valls were on a state champion medley-relay team last year.

SLAM CHARTER – Coach: Rachael Kraemer; Last year: 3-4; Top swimmers: Camila Torres-Caiaffa (8th grade); Andrea Negrin (8th grade); Noteworthy: This is just the second year of the program and the school’s first senior class.

SOUTH DADE – Coach: Sue Hinton; Last year: 6-1; Top swimmers: Carol Marino (Sr.); Liz Martino (Jr.); Skyler Miranda (So.); Noteworthy: Marino broke the school record in the 100 backstroke last year.