Reflecting on a record-breaking CIASA national championships

It was four-days of morning and evening swims at the nationals.

Now that the pool deck has dried off and the swimmers looking ahead to their next challenge, we take a look back at the 2019 Cayman Islands Aquatic Sports Association (CIASA) National Championships that saw several records being broken at the 7-10 March meet. spoke with several young rising stars about the four-day event at Camana Bay Sports Complex that provided athletes a final chance to make bids for the national team that will represent the Cayman Islands at the 34th CARIFTA Aquatic Championships in Barbados next month.

Among those with an outstanding weekend was 12-year-old Jillian Crooks, who re-wrote the CIASA record books in multiple events in the girls 11-12 division. Always one of her toughest critics, Crooks assessed her performance: “I feel good. I feel like I’m swimming fast although I could have gone faster in some of my races,” said the Camana Bay Aquatic Club (CBAC) swimmer.

Jillian Crooks (centre) had a fantastic meet

Another star of the meet, Stingray Swim Club’s Raya Embury-Brown, was a regular face atop the podium in the girls 13-14 division. “It’s been good. I’ve gotten a lot of PBs and I’m pleased with how I swam,” she said.

The 14-year-old shared with what it was like to be in arguably the race of the meet, the 200m freestyle in which she came from behind to touch the wall ahead of Stingray teammate Kyra Rabess and CBAC’s Avery Lambert. “That was the closest and most competitive race of my life – in Cayman. The three of us were just battling it out,” Emury-Brown recalled.

“About at the 150 mark I was about a body length behind and I was like maybe this isn’t going to happen for me and then when I got to the last turn, I started picking it up and said I had energy left in the tank. I’m not going to come in third with energy still left, so I decided I would give everything I’ve got and see where it would take me.” It took her to the wall in 2:07.07 with Rabess second in 2:07.31 and Lambert third in 2:07.43.

Rabess, who also had a solid meet with CARIFTA qualifying times under her belt, was outstanding in the 50m freestyle and 100m butterfly events. She said she’s looking forward to making the trip to Barbados to put in good performances and having a good time with friends.

Also topping the podium with regularity was Will Sellars of Seven Mile Swimmers (SMS). A highlight for the 12-year-old was the boys 11-12 100m freestyle in which he finished comfortably ahead of the competition.

“I had a decent PB on that. I dropped more than a second and I feel like that was a good event because I had to push through to get to that time,” said Sellars of his 1:05.16 performance.

He was delighted with how the meet turned out for him, as he noted that training was limited ahead of the meet due to illness.

Corey Frederick-Westerborg (centre) was happy to be injury free.

Also overcoming injury troubles was Corey Frederick-Westerborg, who had at least half a dozen first place finishes in the 13-14 boys division. “It’s been unexpected,” the Stingray swimmer told “I did not expect myself to be doing this well. It’s a great confidence booster after I’ve been injured for about a year and a half.”

It was not just about making it to the podium for the young swimmers but dropping times and looking to build on their performances…possibly at CARIFTA if given the opportunity.

One such swimmer was 11-year old Sofia Bonati of CBAC, who got qualifying times in the 200m individual medley and the 200m backstroke. “It started off not so good and then I started putting my mind to what I was swimming and I got better,” she said. “I’m really proud of myself because I didn’t think I’d make it in those events.”

Another Kaitlyn Sullivan of Seven Mile Swimmers. She hit qualifying marks in the 400m and 200m individual medley events. She was excited at the prospect of representing Cayman at the Caribbean-wide championships. “It would mean a lot because I never thought I would be among the best in my age group and have the change to go to CARIFTA.” The 12-year-old said.

Describing the meet at having gone pretty well, Sullivan reflected: “I’ve had mostly PBs and was excited every day to do better and better.”

Looking to the future was CBAC’s Phin Ellison, who was first in numerous races in the boys 9-10 group. “My backstroke is probably my best stroke and it has been coming on. I’ve been trying to get closer to the CARIFTA (qualification) times, which I have to make by next year,” he said.

Ellison, who is often overshadowed in the pool by the exploits of his older sisters Sabine and Sophie, shared this nugget about how he plans to get ready for next year, when he hopes to be able to have a spot on the national team: “Just training hard and trying to grow taller and get faster.”

The team to represent the Cayman Islands at the CARIFTA Aquatic Championships is set to be announced in the coming days.

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