Heading to the London 2012 Olympics no English speaking Caribbean swimmer had graced the final of the 50 metre freestyle.
The legend known as George Bovell III of Trinidad and Tobago made his intention known from early at the London Aquatics Centre with the fastest swim of the morning heats with a blast of 21.77.
The semifinals of the splash and dash would see him repeating that time and getting the fifth fastest time in the final.
The final on August 2,2012 saw him cutting through the water to place seventh in 21.82.
History created and another chapter written in the Bovell legacy.
IMPACT ON CARIFTA REGION SWIMMING
Before Bovell at the Olympics there was Hilton Woods of then Netherlands Antilles who had placed eighth in then B finals in 1988. Woods, the 1987 PAN AM Games Bronze medallist (23.39) made it to the B final with a swim of 23.46 before registering 23.65 in his second swim at the Seoul Games.Finishing just ahead of Woods was Mark Andrews 23.64 who represented Trinidad at the PAN AM Games a year earlier and had won Bronze in the 100 metre freestyle.
In 1996 Allan Murray of The Bahamas , a great CARIFTA region sprinter of his era also made it to the B final. He set a then national record of 22.75 in the heats to be 11th overall. In the B final he tied for fourth place in the race with the legendary Brazilian sprinter Gustavo Borges in a time of 22.92.
BARRIER BREAKING BARCELONA BRONZE
Staying in Europe exactly a year later at the Barcelona World Aquatic Championships George would make another breakthrough for the CARIFTA region. This time the series leading into the final was like a building swim. Bovell was 14th in the early qualification with a time of 22.09. The semi finals saw him cracking the 22 seconds barrier with a 21.74 earning the last available spot.
This August 3,would be even better than the previous year. His reaction time was 0.71 off the blocks his turn of speed however would be even greater as he rocketed to 21.51 to earn the Bronze medal. Silver went to Vladimir Morozov of Russia in 21.47 and the Gold to Brazilian César Cielo in 21.32.
IMPACT ON CARIBBEAN SWIMMING
Bovell at this stage in his career had made three World Championships finals and also set the Championship record in 2009 with his still standing national record swim of 21.20 during a swim off to make the Championship final. No other swimmer has made the 50 metre freestyle final so many times or held the Championship record.
Only Puerto Rican sprint star Ricardo Busquets who won Bronze at the 1998 Perth Championships can match Bovell re medal count.
What makes those years especially historic and inspirational is what George overcame before the London Olympics.Reggae icon Buju Banton summed it up best in his hit song “Not An Easy Road”
“It’s not an easy road And many see the glamour and the glitter so them think a bed of rose”
In his own words Bovell spoke about his ordeal to his home club Marlins of Trinidad and tobago
” My brain injury before London – I had terrible vision and memory loss. I was forced to remain very quiet because if my blood pressure raised from an elevated heart rate it could have caused the bruise on my brain to bleed, giving me a stroke which could have been potentially fatal. It was a very stressful time because for a while there I had no guarantee that everything would be ok and the prospects having a stroke or having to undergo brain surgery had me absolutely terrified and unable to have peace of mind. After progressive brain scans we saw that my brain healed up and I was allowed to return to training. I lost so much strength and fitness that I think to fight back and make it to the Finals in London will be something that I will continue to be proud of for the rest of my life.”
The legacy of Bovell III continues to be a source of motivation not only for the swimmers of the region that he represented but athletes in all sports. An indomitable spirit and an unquenchable thirst for excellence.
The 2019-2020 season saw Matthew Mays continue to prove himself as the ultimate teammate for Bryant University after great showings during the dual meet season and the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championships from Feb 12-15.
Mays returned to the Smithfield Rhode Island based institution in good form. He had represented the US Virgin Islands at both the World Championships in South Korea and the Pan American Games in Peru. In the former he had set a new national record in the 200 metre butterfly 2:03.47 (split time 58.47).
Mays brought the heat from the Caribbean to have an impressive dual meet season.Matthew swam 27 times before the Conference Championships and won 24 of those races.
Heading to Championships at the Burt Flickenger Centre in Buffalo New York Mays was ready to give his best for the Bulldogs.
The first race started on the best possible note with the Frederiksted native in the 200 yard medley relay .He recorded a personal best of 22.04 on the backstroke leg which makes him the third fastest performer in the Conference since 2012. That good start allowed teammates Fukang Wong breaststroke 24.46,Zach Digiario butterfly 22.19 and Juan Gonsalez Crespo freestyle 20.40 earning the Bulldogs the crown in 1:29.09. Silver went to a spirited Rider team in 1:29.28. With an advantage of more than a second over the field .
IMPACT ON USVI HISTORY
Matthew continues to be the fastest backstroker the US Virgin Islands has ever produced. Draftingthecaribbean spoke to him about his sprinting progress
“You know I think I worked on my sprint technique a little more this year, focusing on breakouts and just getting in and out of the wall as fast as possible.”
He would double his Gold medal count in the 200 yard Individual medley . In 2019 he had taken the Bronze in 1:50.99. New year , new approach different result. In the heats he took out his personal best set last year in his medal winning effort with a new standard of 1:50.55.It would be onto the final. The final saw Mays taking off from the butterfly with a split of 22.93. From then it was a case of catch me if you can. Luke Cillie of St Peters tried valiantly to chase him down but it would not be enough as Mays had done enough in the opening stanza of the race to take Gold. The final read out saw Mays with a new school record of 1:47.49 , Cillie Silver 1:49.51 and Evan Fair of Fairfield taking the Bronze in 1:49.66.
Along with a new school record Mays now stands as the second fastest ever Virgin Islander in history with a time of 1:47.49. He lays behind Olympian George Gleason 1:47.35 and national team mate Adriel Sanes.He is also the second fastest swimmer ever in Conference history in the event.
We asked him about the the 200 IM where he moved from Bronze last year 1:50.99 Gold this year 1:47.49 and his strategy
“Yeah I definitely had little more pressure this year since our guy who won (Micah Ornelas) last year graduated but I felt really good in the morning and knew if I attacked it a little more at night I could do better. The other thing is just working that middle 100, breaststroke isn’t my strongest suit so I knew I had to really work it and finish hard”.
In the 200 free relay Mays won his third consecutive Silver.He has swum faster each time .He brought his team back to the lead with his leg but was just out touched by Rider 1:21.35 to 1:21.75.
Matthew took us through that relay for the team and and spoke about his split of 20.04
“We knew that was going to be a tight race, and if we wanted that number one spot we’d need to have a couple guys under 20. So ideally I wanted to be under 20 and I think Fu could have been as well. The potential is there, we just need to execute and I think we will next year”.
BACKSTROKE STANDARD BEARER
In the 100 yard backstroke he just missed being atop the podium in a nail biting biting race. He posted a new personal best of 47.88. Taking the Gold by a very slim margin was Callan Smith of Monmouth in 47.86. His very next event the 400 medley relay he gave even more in the race. Going out in the same split as the individual race he brought it home faster 24.68 to give the Bulldogs a lead. His opening split of 47.72 was just outside the Conference record of 47.70. With a lead of more than a second plus his teammates completed the mission to ensure that another medley relay Gold would come home to Smithfield. Wong breaststroke 53.35,Digiaro butterfly 49.13 and Andrew Allen 45.05 helped to the win time of 3:15.25. Second went to Rider in 3:17.81 and the Bronze to Iona in 3:18.79.
We asked him to compare his individual race in the 100 back 47.88 to the 400 medley relay 47.72 where he just missed the Champs record of 47.70.Both first leg splits were 23.04.
“Yeah that was unfortunate, given I would have won the individual event if I had gone that time, but it happens. The medley was the last race of the night and I was a little frustrated after being out touched so my thought process was if I couldn’t get the gold I was going to do everything I could so my team could. And we did so it all came together”.
In the 200 yard backstroke he would won the Silver medal in a yet another personal best of 1:44.40. He gave his impressions of that race
“200 back! It is a love hate relationship. That morning I felt great! I went out smooth and just kept driving and it felt like I had some left over for the night swim and I broke the MAAC record as well so I was feeling good. Warming up that evening I wasn’t feeling as good in the water as I had that morning, so I was a little concerned but knew either way it was going to hurt and I was just going to work my underwaters. Unfortunately I could not see Callan that well in lane two and I he just was able to finish a little harder than I was.”
IMPACT ON USVI HISTORY
Matthew continues to be the best of all time in this event. He is the only swimmer from his country to break 50 seconds and moves himself in into another time standard with each conference competition
The win in the 200 yard backstroke would complete the trifecta as he is now the fastest swimmer from his nation in the 50,100 and 200 yard backstroke events . His time of 1:44.40 saw him bettering Olympian George Gleason’s time of 1:44.73.Gleason set that record at the 2001 NCAA Championships where ended his collegiate career at Yale as the school captain .It was also a school record at the time.
Mays closed the competition with an anchor leg split of 45.25 to help the Bulldogs to 6th in the 400 yard freestyle relay. The team finished with a total time of 3:02.08.
The 400 free relay the last race of the meet he split 45.45. We asked if his legs felt heavy ? And also how he managed to improve every swim every single time he raced at Conference.Also if this meet environment always pushes him to give his best?
“Yeah everything felt heavy haha out of all my races that was the one I was probably least pleased with. To answer the second question, definitely! nothing compares to that environment, having your entire team cheering you on and just the energy in the building is electric. I want to contribute the best I can for my team and on top of it I put a lot of pressure on myself to improve as well”.
The junior has improved in every single event he has contested at the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference
Medley relay backstroke split
200 yard backstroke
200 yard freestyle relay splits
200 yard backstroke
400 yard freestyle relay split
With an impressive dual meet season where he swam 26 races to include relays and won 24 and coupled with an impressive conference Championships he was awarded Swimmer of the Year and also Athlete of the Year.
We asked him if he was aware of this winning percentage and what is his mentality going into dual meets?
“I was not aware. Going into dual meets it doesn’t really matter who we’re racing or what events I’m swimming I usually will try my hardest and whatever happens happens.Obviously if it’s a competitive team and the scores are close there is more pressure but I try to use that energy and get excited for a good race”.
You are obviously a versatile swimmer what will be your focus for the Tokyo Olympics?Also how have you managed to keep focused and motivated during this pandemic?
” I think my focus will be the 200 fly as that is what I’m closest to for a B cut. Fortunately our pool has reopened with specific restrictions to number of people in the pool while following other regulations as well. But getting back in shape is definitely a task but I’m glad that I’m fortunate enough to have that opportunity”.
How did you feel winning Bulldog of the Year by the Swim Team as well as Athlete of the Year by the Bryant University ?
“I was surprised honestly, but it’s a huge honor to receive such prestigious awards, I really looked up to those on my team who had received these types of awards before me. I have great respect for them and it is an honor to be recognized in the same way as they were”.
The Bulldog Award is given by the athletic department, it is the highest honor for the swimming and diving team. It is given to the male and female swimmer who has displayed all-around excellence. High GPA, team leader, an active participant in community events and recruiting events, and success in the pool.
Head Coach Katie Cameron gave the reasons that underlined why Matthew won this Bulldog award “Mays is an incredible teammate! Always looking out for anyone who wears the Bulldog on their cap. For years he has raised the bar with his work ethic- always going as far as possible with his underwaters. Always being the best he can be. At the MAAC Championships this year he scored 54 points. He is a 3-time MAAC champion – 1 individual event, two relays. He broke two school records. During the dual meet season he consistently won both backstroke events and set the tone with the 200 medley relay and great leadership”.
Mays will be one of the CARIFTA region swimmers to expected to do well at the collegiate level in 2021 and set new national standards in Tokyo at the Olympics.
The CARIFTA region has reason to be very proud of its swimmers this conference season in the NCAA. One of the swimmers bringing joy to the US Virgin Islands and the wider region was Adriel Sanes . Representing the Denver University Pioneers Sanes was on fire for the Summit League championships presented by United States Air Force Special Operations which ran from Feb 19 to 22 at the Midco Aquatic Center in Sioux Falls.
He started the meet with a new a Championship record in the 200 yard medley relay. The Pioneers A team of Cameron Auchinachie backstroke 21.33, Cy Jager breaststroke 23.49 , Sanes butterfly 21.05 and Sid Farber 19.00 handling anchor freestyle duties had no problems winning by over four seconds in a total time of 1:24.87, a NCAA B time. The team swim also took down the Championship record of 1:26.02 set by the 2017 Pioneers team. Each member of the team had the fastest splits for their respective strokes. The Pioneers also came close to their school record of 1:24.63 set at the Princeton Invitational in December last year.
Day two saw the same quartet knocking over yet another 2017 Pioneer record .This time it was in the 200 yard freestyle relay. The relay saw Cameron opening up the proceedings with a time of 19.33, followed by Sid 19.02,Jager 19.50 and then Sanes cementing the win with a split of 19.63. The total time was 1:17.48 erasing the old Championship mark of 1:17.62.It was done in yet another NCAA B standard time and came withing touching distance of the school record and NCAA time they produced in December of 1:17.09.
In the 200 yard individual medley the Pioneers and the CARIFTA region occupied the top two spots. Aruban teammate Patrick Groters took down the school and Championship of 1:46.95 set by Tim Cottam in 2017 to record a new standard of 1:46.24. Sanes took the Silver in a time of 1:47.90 just off his personal best.He had the fastest breaststroke split of the field with a time of 30.50.
It was back to regular programming for Sanes on Day three. In the 100 yard breaststroke he negative split the race 26.76 and 26.45 to record a new personal record of 53.21. In the final that strategy would not be employed as he and defending champion and teammate Cy Jager let it all hang out on the first 50 yards. Sanes had the slight edge 24.52 to Jager’s 24.53. Adriel’s strong last 50 yards of 27.80, the only sub 28 seconds of the Championships decided the winner. He touched in 52.32 , a new school,Championship and CARIFTA region best.The old school and Championship record belonged to Cottam at 53.00. The Pioneers dominated the event taking the top four spots.
The final day would see yet another personal record, school record, NCAA B cut and CARIFTA region best in the 200 yard breaststroke. Sanes had the best splits on all four 50’s and had a total time of 1:55.70. He is the only swimmer from the CARIFTA region under 1:56.00.
He ended the meet anchoring the 400 yard freestyle relay with a split of 45.75.The team had a total time of 2:55.83.
For his great efforts Adriel was named the Championship Swimming MVP.
The Pioneers won the men’s title with 1,082.50 points.The University of South Dakota were runner up with 706.5. Third place was won by South Dakota State University with a total of 645.50 points.
Draftingthecaribbean spoke to the talented Sanes in March about his swims
What has been the difference from last years Summit Champs to now mentally and in terms of training?
“So last season, the team went through some issues and it took a toll on me mentally. The training was great, but training could only get you so far if you’re not mentally ready. So last year’s Summit League Champs, it wasn’t as good as I trained for as I only went one best time. Still won the relays and the 200 breast, but it wasn’t as great, especially with the 200 breast being my best event. As with this year’s Summit League Champs, it was much different. Coming off of a great mid season meet that I had in Princeton where I went best times in all my events and helped qualify 3 relays to the NCAA Championships, it boosted my mental toughness to believing I could even do better at this year’s Summit League Champs. The training leading up to the meet was the best I’ve ever had and the week of the meet, I knew I was ready to dominate”.
He was also quizzed about his 100 breaststroke tactics
Your endurance has improved greatly.You negative split the heats coming back in 26.45.And in the final you really went after it splitting 24.5.What sets have you been working on to build this speed endurance and describe that race
“The result of that race was a real shocker to me. I know I’ve put in a lot of hard work over the season, over many years actually, but the result of that race still shocks me to this day. I normally train mid distance, but there are still plenty of opportunities I’ve had to train for the speed of the 100. Sets I’ve done that has helped are sets that I would do 50s at fast pace and hold that pace on short intervals of rest. Other sets are ones we wear cords and do 8-12 strokes fast against a strong resistance.Now with that 100 breast race, at Princeton, I already dropped .50 seconds off my best time going 53.50. So in prelims, I wanted to go as close to 53.00 or even break the barrier. I went 53.21 with good splitting and my teammate went 53.09, so I knew it was going to be a great race at finals. I was nervous before the race as I knew it was a race to break the 53 barrier and win the race. Knowing my teammate is more of the sprinter and takes it out strong, if I stayed right with him, I knew I could win the race as I have a great back half that I’ve trained for and especially since I’m great at the 200. The buzzer goes off and the first 50 was how I wanted/needed it to be. I could see I was right with my teammate and I told myself “I got this.” My walls and pullouts were tremendous and helped being able to take the race out in a 24.52 and bringing it back in a 27.80. Touching the wall to see a time of 52.32 was exciting, but shocking as I didn’t have any idea that I was swimming that fast. I couldn’t believe it honestly. It was a school and conference record by a wide margin. Now with that time, it is a strong possibility that it will be an invite time to the NCAA Championships and I could go to swim individually and not just on the relays, which is still exciting to this day”.
HISTORICAL IMPACT Of BREASTSTROKES RACES
Sanes was already the fastest of all time in the 200 yard breaststroke from 2018 when he overtook Aruban Jordy Groters best of 1:56.60 with a swim of 1:56.24. Jordy set that time at the 2016 NCAA Division I championships.He continues to be the best of all time and the first swimmer under 1:56.00 with his PB of 1:55.70.
He is also the fastest swimmer ever from the CARIFTA region in the 100 breaststroke as he got under another Groters standard from the 2016 NCAA Division I Champs of 52.70 with his swim of 52.32.
Sanes was selected for All American honours by College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) and will also be a team captain for the 2020 -2021 season.
Bahamian DaVante Carey has been having a dream season in his freshman year for McKendree University. Though the Division II Championships was shortened due to the worldwide pandemic there was still enough time for DaVante to dazzle in the 200 yard medley relay.
The Bearcats came to the Championships with a school standard of 1:26.31 from the GLVC Conference Champions.They were just off that time with a swim of 1:26.84. Carey, however again lowered the 50 yard backstroke record. He carried the Bearcats to new heights with the lowering of his time from 21.88 to 21.84.
The defending CARIFTA Champion in the 50 metre backstroke would prove he had more speed to burn in the final on March 11 at the SPIRE Institute. In the final he took off after a 10.65 25 yards split to touch in yet another school record of 21.45.This gave his teammates a lead that they would not relinquish.John Heapy with his breaststroke gave a leg of 23.82. On the butterfly Gregg Lichinsky recorded a time of 20.57 and then Namibian Alexander Skinner brought it home in a time of 19.45. They took off a second to record a new time of 1:25.29. They were just off the NCAA Championship record of 1:24.83.
CAREY’S IMPACT ON THE HISTORY BOOKS
The Gold for McKendree is the first in program history for the University in the event. Carey continues to push The Bahamas and the Bearcats into new speed zones as he continues to break the yards record and exert his dominance as the best ever in this event. This Gold represents the first relay Championship title for the CARIFTA in the NCAA Division II .
SCHOOL RECORD SWIMS
He also recorded the second fastest time done in the last 10 years in the Championship finals of the event. Only Frenchman Paul Pijulet of Queens has been faster in recent years with his blast of 21.41. Pijulet was a senior in 2018 when he recorded his personal best and Queens went on to win the national title in a record time of 1:24.83.
Carey now joins an small elite group swimmers of to have lifted the NCAA title in this event .Those are the Olympians from Team Trinidad and Tobago Siobhan Cropper in 1998 and 2001 with Stanford and Dylan Carter (Rio 2016) with the University of Southern California.Both swimmers won their titles at the NCAA Division I champs
CARIFTA REGION PRESENCE IN THE FINAL
Carey was not alone flying the regional colours with pride . Earning the Silver was the Terrific Two from Team TTO . Representing the University of Indianapolis Greyhounds Jeron Thompson and Kael Yorke’s team had a total time of 1:25.80. Reigning 500 yard freestyle champion Alex Sobers of Emmanuel College anchored the Lions to 5th for a total time of 1:26.42.
The 15-17 50 metre backstroke finalists in the 2019 and 2018 edition of the CARIFTA Championships that competed in yard have all improved this season . DaVante again was the leader in this shortened season
Carey who has been undefeated at the CCCAN level for the last three years and gave his impressions of his performance
“Going into the morning swim I was not feeling well. I did not swim the day before due to food poisoning. So really I did not know what I was getting myself into. But after my morning swim I knew that I was going to be fine in the night due to me going a PB in the morning. Furthermore, coming back in the night the my teammates and I just set our eyes on that first place position and we did that. I started it off with the 50 backstroke split of 21.45, the fastest time in DII this season and that was really exciting for me due to me only being a freshman. But overall I am really proud of my times in the past season and I hope I can continue the trend into next season”.
On this day sixteen years ago Bovell was already building a legendary swimming career and his swim in the NCAA Division I Championships cemented his status in the year year that would be arguably one of the best of his career.
Heading to Nassau County Aquatic Center, East Meadow, New York George had crowned himself as the SEC Champion having won the title in Georgia a month earlier. Those Conference Championships were held in short course yards. In the final he set a new Championship record and pool record of 1:43.73 holding off another legend in the making University of Florida’s Ryan Lochte who won the Silver in a time of 1:43.84 .
Bovell broke the championship record of American Olympian and Florida Gator Greg Burgess 1:43.91 and the pool record of 1:44.03 held by Austrian Olympian Stanford’s Markus Rogan .
Burgess won the Silver medal in the 200 metre individual medley at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and would rise to the rank of Major in the US Marines.He,like George was a student of the world famous Bolles high school.
George was already the best 200 Individual medley swimmer ever in the yards pool having won the 2003 NCAA crown in 1:42.66.
In New York a new challenge awaited the Caribbean Conqueror as the meet would be held in the 25 metre pool. The world record in the 200 IM belonged to Hungarian Attila Czene and Jani Sievinen of Finland at 1:54.65.
Czene had won the Bronze in the event at the Olympics behind Burgess and teammate Tamás Darnyi. Four year later at the Atlanta 1996 Games he would win Gold . He would make his last Olympic appearance at the 2000 Sydney Games ,just finishing outside of the podium placing fourth.Attila had set his world record as a freshman at Arizona State when the NCAA held the 2000 Championships in short course metres
Sievinen had won the Silver behind Attila in 1996. He had set the World record five times in the 25 metre pool and held the World record in the Olympic sized pool for nine years
In the morning heats it was clear that sea change was in the making for CARIFTA region swimming as he topped the qualifiers with a time of 1:54.68. In the final after the first 100 metre it was a three man between future Olympic medallists Rogan, 52.97, followed by Bovell with Lochte a touch behind 54.06. Bovell used a breaststroke split of 32.99. His rivals could not handle that Caribbean heat as they both had splits of 34s. That break away led to the fastest freestyle split of 27.01. The total time read a new new pool, national , NCAA , US Open and World record time of 1:53.93.
Rogan won the Silver in a time of 1:55.51 and Lochte the Bronze in 1:55.62.
COMPARISON OF WORLD RECORDS
MAJOR MEDLEY MILESTONES
PAN AM Games Canada
1st B final
World Champs Japan
World Champs Spain
PAN AM Games Dom Rep
CARIFTA REGION IMPACT
In winning Gold Bovell would become the first English speaking CARIFTA region swimmer to hold a swimming world record. He would hold the world standard for more than a year when another Hungarian László Cseh would set a new mark of 1:53.65
In 2004 swimmers in the NCAA system and across the world knew of Auburn’s FOUR HORSEMEN Americans Derek Gibb, Ryan Wochomurka, Frenchman Fred Bousquet and Trinidad and Tobago’s George Bovell III. They rode into the Championships and certainly brought an end to thoughts of any other male team lifting the title in the sprint freestyle events. As they took the 200 and 400 metre freestyle relay titles.
George Bovell III
George Bovell III
Both relay efforts were the fastest the world had ever seen . The 200 metre freestyle relay record was 1:24.83 and the world record 1:25.55.Bovell recorded the second fastest time at the Championships leading off this relay . Fast Freddy Bousquet would set the world record in the individual race clocking 21.10.
In the 400 metre freestyle relay the World record had stood to Sweden at 3:09.57 and the NCAA record 3:11.25. The times had to stand as a world best because of the different nationalities the FOUR HORSEMEN represented.
George Bovell would leave the NCAAs with One official World record and Two unofficial World records.
The meet was a great success for Bovell as he lead off the 200 metre freestyle relay in the second fastest time done at the meet. He would also take Silver in the 400 medley anchoring the relay team with a time of 46.58.In the 800 metre freestyle relay where the team placed fourth he started off in a time of 1:44.81 that would have would won Gold in the individual race. In the individual 200 metre freestyle he won the Bronze in 1:45.13.
The NCAA Championships proved critical in another major CARIFTA milestone at the 2004 Athens Olympics which draftingthecaribbean will discuss when that date is near.
The swimmers from the twin island Republic and the region can take pride in George’s efforts and the path that he has made for those that have come after.
One of the CARIFTA region’s stars whose has been using the momentum of a great long course season to do well on the college level is Jared Fitzgerald of The Bahamas . He is known as Flying Fitzgerald after his national record breaking exploit in the 100 metre freestyle. He set the national record at the 2019 PAN AM Games in a time of 50.81.
Jared who represents the Tampa University Spartans was fantastic form at at the Sunshine State Conference Championships which was held from Feb 13 to 16 at the Clearwater Aquatic Center in Florida.
In his first event the 50 yard freestyle he made the championship final and recorded a personal best for fifth in 20.46.
The next day is when Jared took off with his medal account taking Gold in the 200 yard freestyle relay.The quartet of Luke Hene 20.26, Yannick Smith 20.13, Fitzgerald 19.85 and Aaron James 19.64 took the title in 1:19.88.They ran down the Nova Southern University who clocked 1:20.00.St Leo won Bronze in a time of 1:21.56.
The CARIFTA region has its imprint on the overall conference record and Championship records at St Lucian Jordan Augier was a member of the 2016 Spartan teams that set the standards of 1:19.09 and 1:17.27.
In the 200 yard freestyle Jared who was already the fastest Bahamian of all time in the event consolidated his position as the best ever.The third 50 yards was were Fitzgerald showed his class. His split of 24.71 broke the field.When he made that move there was no response from the field and he would take the Gold in a time of 1:37.05, winning by over a second. Silver and Bronze were won by the NSU Shark teammates Vincent Lijoi and Alex Dawson in times of 1:38.00 and 1:38.34.
This a move up for the podium for the CARIFTA region after Jamaican Nico Campbell won the Silver in 2019 for the Florida Southern College in 1:37.23
The longest relay the 800 yard freestyle relay saw the Spartans calling on the warrior spirit of Fitzgerald. Given the responsibility of anchor duties Fitzgerald was behind the leaders NSU sharks by over a second . Jared bided his time and cut the deficit to .06. He went to his big kick and ensured the Crown with a split of 25.93. That secured the Gold in a time of 6:31.72. The NSU Sharks won Silver in 6:33.18 and Saint Leo the Bronze in 6:37.04. The Spartans also lowered the school standard of 6:33.09 set in 2019.
The Conference record has roots in the CARIFTA region as Campbell’s team had set the Championship record last year in 209 at 6:30.02
In the 100 yard freestyle Jared buoyed by his great performances in the meet and with the confidence of being the national record holder for The Bahamas in the Olympic pool took the Sunshine State title easily.The victory was never in doubt as he lead from the starter’s gun to the final. He raised his hands as Champion with a new personal best time of 43.93. Only Olympian Chris Murray with his blast of 43.83 from the 2001 SEC Conference Championships while representing the Georgia Bulldogs
Draftingthecaribbean spoke to the Fitzgerald last month and got his thoughts about his performances. We asked him first about his mindset heading to the Conference Champs
“Training heading into conference champs was very tough because the men’s team knew we had a chance to do something special .We wanted win for the first time in Tampa’s history so everyone had tunnel vision”.
He also spoke about his strategy in the 200 yard freestyle
“For the 200 attacking the third 50 was apart of my plan and something I have been working on a lot more this year. I was very happy to seeit pay off”.
He told us about the 100 yard freestyle where he had another personal best in taking the Crown and how confident he has been in this event been since setting the national 100 metre record
“My confidence in the 100 yards is getting better and better. Honestly I don’t think I have hit my full potential in it especially after seeing what I can do long course”.
He also told us how he felt heading to the NCAA Division II championships
“Honestly really excited, looking forward to racing some competition & seeing some friends. Especially excited to race like Alex Sobers again, just like the CARIFTA days”.
The Spartans won the men’s Championships with a total of 952 points.Second went to the NSU Sharks with 809 points and Florida Southern third with 548 points.
The NCAA Division II championships gets underway and will feature stars from the CARIFTA region to include defending 500 yard freestyle Champion Alex Sobers of Barbados representing Emmanuel College, the Terrific two from Team TTO Jeron Thompson and Kael Yorke representing the University of Indianapolis,Fitzgerald’s countryman DaVante Carey from The Bahamas representing McKendree.
One of the brightest prospects this college season has been Bahamian freshman DaVante Carey who competes for McKendree University in the NCAA Division II. After a very successful mid season meet in November he has followed up with even more success and continues to lower his personal best, school records, Conference records and establish himself as one the best swimmers that The Bahamas has ever produced competing in yards.
On the first day Feb 12 of the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) Championships held at the Crawfordsville Aquatic Center meet he qualified for the B finals. and placed sixth in a new personal best of 1:51.66., That effort was a new school record . That beat the previous record held by Matthew Meals of 1:51.89.Carey started his career in yards with a time of 2:01.53 in October
The pages of the record book continued to be torn up by in the 200 yard medley relay. Already the fastest Bahamian and school record holder in the 50 yard backstroke with his 22.42 relay leg from the Purdue Invitational Carey decided it was time to bring the Caribbean heat to the Conference Champs.He scorched to his first sub 22 second time clocking of 21.88, a new school record and all time Bahamian best also the fourth fastest time in Division II . Teammates John Heaphy breaststroke 23.87,Greg Lichinsky butterfly 21.18 and anchorman Alexander Skinner freestyle 19.38 completed the decisive win in a total time of 1:26.31. Wiped from the record sheet was the old school record of 1:30.14 and the pool and Conference record of 1:28.14. It is also the fastest time in Division II.
In the 100 yard butterfly there would be another impressive time drop. The heats saw he beating his old PB of 49.77 with a 49.18. That secured him a spot in the B final . He proved himself a class apart from the field. Though it is obvious he has the fast twitch fibres a plenty he took the race away from his competitors using his increased speed endurance. He trailed initially with opening split of 22.34. But it was his last 50 of 25.60 that broke the field. He touched in 47.94, the only sub 48 seconds time of the field. It also would have put him sixth in the Championship
BAHAMIAN HISTORICAL IMPACT
He is now tied with a CARIFTA region legend Olympian Jeremy Knowles. The only swimmers ahead of him are Olympians Nicholas Rees 47.88 and Elvis Burrows 46.72. Elvis recorded the Bahamian all time best swimming for the University of Kentucky Wildcats at the 2009 SEC Champs
Carey elaborated on that race
“Honestly, my morning swim wasn’t a good one at all. I messed up my first two walls. And I only swam 100 fly one other time this season so it was an adjustment I had to make for my evening swim. Coach Tierney just told me to use my speed going out and just bring it back as quick as I can”.
The Nassau native would pull off another double record feat in the 400 yard medley relay. His personal record of 48.95 was just off the school mark of 48.74. His opening leg of 48.36 that now owned all the sprint backstroke records for his school. Carey again proved too good for everyone else.His opening 50 yards split was 23.11 and no one was within half a second of him.He gave his team just the lead they wanted. Heapy breaststroke 53.21,Lichinsky butterfly 47.17 and Matija Pucarevic on anchor 43.32. They stopped the clocked in 3:12.05. That crushed the old school record of 3:14.05 and also downed the pool and Championship record of 3:13.43 set by Missouri University of Science and Technology.
The 100 yard backstroke record would not last the duration of the meet as the reigning CARIFTA Champion in the 50 and 100 metre backstroke proved that previous time barriers mean nothing to him.After cruising to the Championship final with a time of 49.02 he further solidify himself as the backstroker in school and Bahamian history in the 100 yard backstroke. Carey popped a 47.81 to win the Silver . Only Drury University’s Nathan Bighetti was faster with his Gold medal winning time of 47.39. He is also the ninth fastest in Division II
BAHAMIAN HISTORICAL IMPACT
Before Carey started competing the NCAA system no Bahamian had bettered 49.00 the standard set by Olympian Chris Vythoulkas. Now Carey has gone faster than 49 seconds and gone under the 48 seconds mark as well.
DaVante gave his insight on winning the Silver medal
“It was a race I really wanted to win. However I didn’t, but I wasn’t mad about it because i was happy with the outcome and my time. I knew this was my best chance to win an individual race at GLVC and make my name known. After my prelims swim I knew I could have cleaned up my race and go faster at night and that is what I did and now I am heading into nationals as the 9th seed”.
In the 200 yard backstroke he entered the meet with a 1:53.00. He beat that with a morning swim of 1:52.97. In the B final he decimated that standard with a time of 1:48.80 to finish second in the race. In another demonstration of his increased stamina he closed with the second fastest final 50 yards of 27.68. He is now the second fastest swimmer in the event in school history. That list also includes Cayman Islands representative Cole Morgan who sits at number five.
BAHAMIAN HISTORICAL IMPACT
Carey now has esatblished himself as the best backstroker in yards ever from the 50 to the 200. He again bettered another Vythoulkas mark.This time by the slimmest of margins as Chris had swum 1:48.81 at the 2003 ACC’s.
Draftingthecaribbean asked about his increased speed endurance and what training helped for the 200 yard backstroke
“I’ve been doing a lot of pace training and also training at below my pace time so i feel like that helped me a lot. After my morning swim I didn’t think I could have gone faster but. I watched my race to find weak points. So I decided that i would take the first 50 out a bit easier and just build each 50 from there and I think that iss what made the big difference. I really satisfied with the time because my first 200 back of the season I didn’t even break 2:00 and since then I have improved everytime I swam it. I am happy with the time and the training”.
DaVante closed the competition with a 45.10 second leg swim on the Bearcats team that won the B final in a time of 3:01.34.
Draftingthecaribbean also got DaVante to speak about the mindset going into the Conference Champs compared to the mid season invite
“I feel like going into conference was different because the men’s team knew that we had a real shot to win the conference title. So that was really the real motivation heading into conference where as at our mid season meet in November the team goal was to get their NCAA cut early on”.
The team finished second with a total of 1414 points. Topping the men’s competition was the University of Indianapolis with 1452 ,home to CARIFTA region age group stars from Team TTO Kael Yorke and Jeron Thompson. Third went to Drury with 1299 points.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Graham Chatoor continues to rise to the occasion when the big meets arrive. The latest evidence of his quality was seen at University Athletic Association (UAA) Conference Championships Wed Feb 12- Sat Feb 15 while representing his school New York University.
Graham travelled to the University of Chicago with a personal best of 4:26.85 recorded at the Ithaca College Bomber Invitational . That time rattled the school record of 4:26.60 held by Ian Rainey from 2015. That standard was again given its final rites during the heats when Chatoor cruised to number one seeding of 4:27.85.He also eased past his Conference Championships record time of 4:27.89.
In the Championship final Emory sophomore Patrick Pema lead the field opening with a 100 split of 49.46. Pena kept at bay Chatoor, his teammate Thomas Pritchard and University of Washington’s Mason Kelber. Graham who is known as the “Closer ” in the event did just that. With Pema having almost a 2 second lead going into the last 50 yards Graham cut that down as Pema split 3:58.07 to Chatoor’s 3:58.74. Then it happened, the 6’5 sophomore from Port of Spain put in the turbo and split 25.60 to ensure that the tittle stayed in New York courtesy the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago with a new personal best, school , Championship and Conference record of 4:24.30.
Silver went to Pema in 4:24.97. The Bronze was earned by Mason Kebler in 4:25.69.
The following day he would get another personal best in the 400 yard individual medley . He started the season with a time of 4:17.97. In the morning heats he dropped that to 4:13.61.
In the C final he placed third in another best of 4:12.82.
In the 800 yard freestyle relay the NYU team moved up from 5th place to fourth. This time completed the longest freestyle relay in a time of 6:43.14 compared to 6:48.73 in 2019. Chatoor also was much faster on his second leg duties as he split 1:40.13 compared to 1:42.95 last year.
In his final event the 1650 yard freestyle earned another podium position . He won Bronze in a time of 15:22.40 faster than his winning time last year of 15:24.13. Silver was won by Kebler in 15:21.93 and the Gold to Pritchard in 15:15.44.
The Violets placed third overall with 1298. Runner up position went to University of Chicago in 1579 and the overall champions were Emory with 1595.5.
ONE RACE TWO NATIONAL RECORDS
Chatoor ‘s performance follows up on a great 2019 long course season where he lowered the national record in the 1500 metre freestyle. At the 2019 PAN AM Games in Lima Peru. He established himself as the best long distance freestyler ever from the twin island republic with a time of 16:13.84. The old standard of 16:19.43 was set by Sebastian Paddington more than 2 decades earlier. In swimming that race he also got under the national mark of 8:40.00 set by the legendary George Bovell III in Santa Clara in 2000.
DATE WITH DESTINY
Chatoor will head to the Division III Swimming Championships ranked third nationally in the 500 yard freestyle and 1650 yard freestyle. He will be looking for national titles as well as the mantle of the CARIFTA region’s fastest ever swimmer in the 1000 and 1650 yard freestyle events.
He established himself as the best with his title winning swimming in the 500 yard freestyle bettering the time of 4:24.79 set by Bahamian Matthew Lowe. He will also be chasing down Lowe’s standards in the 1000 and 1650 yard freestyle of 9:13.80 and 15.16.95. Lowe set those standards when he won the Colonial Athletic Association Championships title in the mile swim in 2015. Lowe is now an assistant coach at his alma mater Towson University
TALE OF THE TAPE
500 yard freestyle
1000 yard freestyle
1650 yard freestyle
400 LCM freestyle
1500 LCM freestyle
Draftingthecaribbean spoke to the defending UAAA 500 yard freestyle champion in February and got his thoughts about the 2020 Conference Championships.We asked Chatoor what was going through his mind those last 100 yards of the 500 yard freestyle as he went for the win
“I honestly didn’t even see the guy that I was racing until the last 25 yards. I was mostly just trying to finish strong, thinking I was coming in second because the other guy (Pema) took off really quick. When I saw that I was with him I put my head down and started sprinting because I realized I could actually win”.
We also asked about how training been for this year to get such a time drop from last year
” I’m definitely working a lot harder this year, and training’s gotten more difficult too. My coach and I set out goal times at the beginning of the year, and I’ve hit two of them so far. Going for the third one at NCAA’s next month.I’m working a lot more on the fine-tuning and technical aspects of my races”.
He also spoke about tell me his record breaking 1500 metre freestyle swim in 2019 where he broke the old national standard of the 1500 freestyle 16.19.43 and the 800 metre freestyle where he split 8:36.00 which is better than Bovell’s 8:40.00.
“In that one I was focusing on just keeping my stroke long and strong, so as not to panic and start chopping. I knew I was on the 800 and 1500 records so I was doing my best to just stay smooth and accelerate as I went along. I didn’t know I got the 800 record till I got out”.
He also elaborated on the lessons he learnt from hisfirst NCAA’s that will help in 2020 and a tough set that has helped with his progress this year
” I definitely wasn’t mentally prepared enough going into NCAA’s last year, but I’ve been working on that a lot more now.My coach has a test set where we do 15 100’s on 1:30, all out, and we have to remain consistent throughout the set.We do it a few times a year, so seeing the progress and the times dropped definitely gives a confidence boost”.
Luis Sebastian Weekes of Barbados had a conference meet to remember at the North Coast Atlantic Conference Championships this past weekend. Competing for the Kenyon Lords at the Trumbull Aquatic Centre at the Denison University Weekes had no equal in any of his races.
Luis took on his first event the 200 yard individual medley where he was seeded fourth coming to his second Conference Championships.Luis was the defending champion and meet record holder with a time of 1:49.20. He eased into the medal race with a season best time of 1:51.00 to be ranked third overall.
In the final Luis was fourth after the butterfly leg and then uncorked a 27.45 backstroke to take the lead with a halfway split of 51.45. He would not relinquish that lead. On his preferred breaststroke he out split the field as he had done on the backstroke with a leg of 29.69. He would turn in a total time of 1:47.82 for a decisive victory. Second went Piotr Kurleto of Denison in 1:50.22 and the Bronze to teammate Mick Bartholomew 1:50.28.
With the win the sophomore from St Thomas crushed his own meet record as well as the pool record held by Bebe Wang from Denison. It was the first time the Lords were winning back to back Conference titles since Blair Withington did it in 2007 and then 2008. His performance has him ranked third so far in Division III. Weekes, who is a product of the Tennessee powerhouse left that institution as a state Champion in this event .Draftingthecaribbean spoke asked him about the race where he took the lead on the backstroke leg and what was the game plan going into the final
“The game plan going into the 200 IM was not to overthink anything and that if I was even with the field at the backstroke the the race would be mine”.
The performance also marked a breakthrough in the event as his personal best had stood at 1:47.89 set back in 2018.He continues to get closer to the school record of 1:46.82.
In the 200 yard medley relay the Lords and Denison had a close battle to determine the Gold medal. The Lords were just behind by .01 after the backstroke leg of David Fitch 22.32. Entering the water for the Lords would be Weekes .He had a game changing breaststroke leg of 24.40, the fastest of the meet.Splits by teammates Marcus Hong butterfly 21.05 and Cherantha Da Silva freestyle 19.65 ensured the Gold in 1:27.42. Denison won Silver in 1:27.90 . Both teams went faster than the old Championship record of 1:27.99. The win by the Lords snapped a seven year winning streak by the Big Red .The last time Kenyon had won was 2012 when Denison had broken their six year Gold medal run. The win by the quartet also broke the 2015 school record of 1:27.54 and has the Lords number one in Division III.
In the 100 yard breaststroke Weekes ensured that Kenyon defended the title. He took the Gold in 55.16, just off his morning heats time of 55.15.Silver went to Richie Kurlich of Denison in 55.35. Jamaican teammate Joe Black won the Bronze in 55.68. Luis is ranked seventh in Division III with his season and personal best time of 54.87 recorded in November.
In the 200 yard breaststroke there would be another significant time drop. He entered the meet with a season best of 2:02.00. In the morning he rattled that seasonal standard with an effort of 2:02.47. There would be no holding back by Weekes from the firing of the starter’s gun. He took out the race in 26.32. Kurlich of Denison tried to match him with a time of 26.36. Weekes turned on the jets and increased the lead with each 50 and broke the field to win in a new personal best , pool record and NCAC Champs record of 1:58.50. The old pool and Championship record of 1:59.43 had belonged to Ryan Stevenson of Denison. This is the first Conference Championship title for the Lords since 2015. Weekes is now ranked second in the event for Division III and is nearing closer to the school record of 1:57.78 set by Ian Reardon.
Weekes was asked about made the difference with his speed endurance
“For my speed endurance I have simply been training more breaststroke. To swim faster in a stroke you have to swim more of it”
The Lords won the overall Championships with 1913 points. Denison took second place with 1765 and third went to Wabash with 1264. Draftingthecaribbean spoke to Weekes about the attitude of the men’s 200 yard medley relay going into the race, the overall team mindset going to the Championships
“The attitude of the medley team can be summed up in one word aggression. The attitude of the men in general was that we had nothing to lose and that we were going to fight to the very end”.
For winning three individual Gold and one relay Gold Weekes was awarded Swimmer of the Year.This is the first time Kenyon is winning the accolade since 2015 when Austin Caldwell received the honour.
Luis also gave his outlook for the NCAA Division III championships which will be taking place in Greensboro North Carolina from March 18 to 22
” I was obviously happy with my performance .I obviously want to do better at NCAA’s but what I need to focus on right now is being mentally calm and getting back to some good training”.
Yet another CARIFTA region swimmer continues to make their mark at the Tennessee high school swim Championships .In 2020 it was Bermudan Logan Watson-Brown showing her class at the Tennessee Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville from Feb 7 to 8. Logan competes for the powerhouse Baylor high school , home to many of the region’s top age group stars over the years.
She made her debut at the State Championships with a preliminary swim in the 200 yard freestyle. That morning on February 7 saw her lowering her personal best from 1:52.65 to 1:51.62 . That swim gained her entry to her first Championship final on her very first attempt.
In the evening’s final the defending 15-17 CCCAN 200 metre freestyle Champion would not be denied a place on the podium she crushed her morning effort with a new personal best of 1:49.96 split time 52.66 earning the Bronze.Silver was won by Kalli Chelsvig of Ensworth 1:48.28.Gold was was won by the outstanding Alex Walsh of Harpeth Hall in 1:45.19.
The Bermudan is now the fastest CARIFTA region swimmer ever at Baylor bettering Trinidad and Tobago’s Kimberlee John-Williams time of 1:52.02 back in Feb 2012. She also ranks sixth all time at Baylor.
In regional championships Watson Brown has been on a winning streak taking the 13-14 CCCAN 200 metre freestyle in 2018 and doing the regional golden Double in her first year of 15-17 in 2019 taking both the CARIFTA and CCCAN crowns
GOLDEN 200 METRE FREESTYLE REGIONAL STREAK
The next day in the 100 yard freestyle she continued to set new personal bests.In the morning heats she recorded a time of 51.68. Her old personal best was 51.84. In the 200 yard freestyle relay she produced an anchor leg split of 24.22 to help her team to a total time of 1:36.99 and Lane 4 in the medal final.
She closed the session with a time of 51.93 leading of the Baylor ladies who made it to the Championship final with a total time of 3:34.35.
The final of the individual 100 yard freestyle saw her posting her first sub 51 seconds swim. She clocked 24.39 and raced home to 26.50 to touch fourth in 50.89. Logan was a part of a historic race as the winner Gretchen Walsh of Harpeth Hall won Gold in a time of 46.98, the fastest time ever swum by a high school girl. Silver went to Ellie Taliaferro of GPS in 50.04 and the Bronze to Erin Milligan of Collierville in 50.05.
The 200 yard freestyle relay was a coronation ceremony of speed rather than a race as the Baylor team led from the sounding of the starter’s gun to the final touch at the wall. The team of Ellie Waldrep 23.54,Jewel Gordon 23.54, Lydia Bohannon 24.08 and Watson-Brown 23.41. The total winning time is 1:34.37. Brentwood was second in 1:36.61 and Maryville took the Bronze in 1:38.24.
Buoyed by her individual performance she returned to the pool in the last event of the Championships to swim the fastest opening of the 400 yard freestyle relay. Watson -Brown took charge of the race with her opening split of 24.31. The field lost touch with her as she split 26.33 to touch in yet another personal best of 50.64. That gave the Baylor ladies a lead of over 2 seconds.
It would not be enough as the Harpeth Hall team had three swift 49.76 Alex Massey and the Walsh sisters Alex and Gretchen with times of 47.91 and 48.14 to win in 3:20.81. Maryville clocked 3:30.24 for the Silver . Baylor was just out touched clocking 3:30.80 for the Bronze.
Logan also established herself as the best CARIFTA region swimmer in the 100 yard freestyle at Baylor. This time she downed the 51.58 set by Bahamian Bria Devaux in February 2012. She is also the fifth fastest performer of all time at the Chattanooga based institution
CARIFTA REGION AQUATIC FOOTPRINT AT TISCA
The state and independent high school record of 1:31.18 is held by the 2012 Baylor team that had three swimmers from the region Bria Deveaux The Bahamas , Kimberlee John-Williams Trinidad and Tobago and Ashley Yearwood Bermuda.
Link to video by Swimming world after they broke the record in 2012
The fastest ever 200 yard medley relay record by a high school boys team either public of 1:27.74 is held by the 2014 Baylor team that included Bahamian Dustin Tynes and Barbadian Christopher Selby.