Records tumble as CARIFTA hopefuls chase their dreams

Photo courtesy: CIASA

There were several strong performances at the 4th Annual Cayman Islands National Swimming Championships last weekend, with several personal best and record-breaking achievements at Camana Bay Aquatic Centre.

A total of nine Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association (CIASA) records were set at the 16-19 February meet, with nine Cayman Islands national records also being set. Camana Bay Aquatic Club (CBAC) swimmers had the lion’s share of records, with all but two being set by members of that club. The other two being set by Stingray Swim Club (SSC) members.

Jillian Crooks

It was a particularly good championship for Jillian Crooks, who set CIASA marks in the girls 9-10 50m backstroke (36.35 seconds) and 50m butterfly (34.52). Both of those swims were also national records, along with her efforts in the 100m butterfly (1:22.02), the 100m backstroke (1:23.68) and the 50m breaststroke (41.76).

Click here for a full list of records.

“As per normal, the kids exceed expectations,” said CIASA President Michael Lockwood in an interview with “It’s good to see that it’s always improving and that’s what we want – that’s what all the support is there for. It’s always good to see that kids’ hard work pays off.”

When staring the Nationals four years ago, and with the full support of the coaches from CIASA’s affiliated swim clubs, it was decided to run the meet in a four-day, preliminary and finals format. This means swimmers compete in preliminary heats in the morning and then those who qualify for finals come back that night to compete for a place on the podium.

CARIFTA Championships, CCCAN Championships, Island Games and the World Masters Championships all use this format. “This format is the format of choice in many international competitions and the experience it gives Cayman’s swimmers simply can’t be replicated in any other way,” said CIASA Technical Director Bailey Weathers.

“To give the swimmers this opportunity, two days of the meet are school days and so the support and cooperation that the schools provide their student athletes – allowing them to arrive at school late for those two days – is significant, so on behalf of swimming I extend my thanks to the schools for their support.”

Jonathan Key, Lauren Hew and Rory Barrett lead the opening parade.

The National Championships is also the last local meet that Cayman’s CARIFTA hopefuls can achieve CARIFTA qualifying times. While this may seem an early cut off for an event that takes place over Easter, CIASA officials say holding the National Championships early enough allows swimmers enough time to earn qualifying times and to be work with their coaches on detailed training plans for all 2017 competitions, including, among others, CARIFTA Swimming Championships and Island Games.

A number of swimmers made qualifying times across the course of the weekend in order to be considered for selection on upcoming national junior, senior and development teams and CIASA expects to announce the full CARIFTA swimming team by the end of the week.

“The highlight for the championships is just being able to come and swim with teammates, being able to swim some fast times, being able to see where you training has brought you to see improvements throughout the year,” said CBAC swimmer Rory Barrett. The 16-year-old won gold in the 100m butterfly, 200m individual medley and 400m individual medley in the Boys 16-17 age division.

Stingray Swim Club’s Kyra Rabess enjoyed the thrill of competition and the spirit of camaraderie on display during the event. “It’s been good for me because it challenged me to push myself a bit more and it’s fun to enjoy because I’m with all my friends,” the 12-year-old told

Among those competing was Lauren Hew, who swims for St Andrew’s School in Florida. The 17-year-old returned for the Nationals.

“It’s nice to come home and race with familiar faces…when I’m away at school, I have a lot of kids that are from the Caribbean swimming with me on my team that I see at CARIFTA, so that helps to push me a lot. Just having more people in the pool gives me more competition and that helps as well,” said Hew, who won seven events at the meet.

See interview with first time participants at the Nationals: Luke Dodson and Ben Coak of Seven Mile Swimmers:

The Nationals was also used to showcase the hard work of the Fitness Connection Synchro team, which performed on Saturday afternoon during the opening ceremony, with those around the pool cheering them on.

Lockwood said the championships has become an important competition for swimmers since being first held in 2013.

“It is a well-attended event by the swimming community and affords our swimmers a chance to experience what international competitions are like. The competition cannot be put on without the overwhelming support of our community and, in particular, our parents, sponsors, partners and volunteers,” he said.

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