The opening day of the Arena Pro Swim Series at Mesa in Arizona on Thursday April 14 saw the CARIFTA region’s stars in action. Jamaica’s Alia Atkinson was the lone swimmer to make a championship final. However two national records fell to Joanna Evans of the Bahamas and Julian Fletcher of Bermuda.
Atkinson who represents South Florida Aquatics qualified easily for the final of her main event the 100 metre breaststroke when she touched the final wall in 1:08.47 (split time 32.55). In the final she would face a quality field which had a strong American contingent to include 2015 PAN AM Games Champion Katie Meili, World Record holder Jessica Hardy, and rising star Molly Hannis. The opening 50 saw Meili in Lane 4 and Atkinson in Lane 7 separating themselves from the field with their opening splits of 31.34 and 31.37. In the drive to the finish Meili would take the win in a time of 1:06.49, Atkinson would win the Silver medal in a time of 1:06.84. That is the 7th fastest time of Atkinson career .Since 2013 Atkinson has always finished in the top 2 at this stop of the Pro Swim Series. It was again easily under the 2016 Rio Olympics automatic qualifying mark of 1:07.85
Joanna Evans of the Bahamas who just completed a great debut collegiate season with the University of Texas had her first long course meet since the NCAA Division 1 Championships in March. Swimming only in the morning heats of the 200 metre freestyle she lowered her national record of 2:03.00 .At her last CARIFTA championships she had set a new 15-17 and senior national record of 2:03.00.In 2015 she took out the first 100 metres in 1:00.09.This time she covered the first half of the race in 1:00.09 and finished the last 100 metres in 1:02.47 to record a new senior national record of 2:02.51.Her performance was under the Rio 2016 Olympic B time of 2:03.13
Bermudan Julian Fletcher who represents Trojan swim club has been the standard bearer for his nation in the breaststroke events . At the Canadian Olympic trials held recently he came close to lowering his 2012 mark in the 100 metre breaststroke of 1:03.58 when he produced a time of 1:03.63. There would be no close miss in Arizona. In the morning heats his first 50 was timed at 29.95.He used that early momentum to touch the wall in a new national record of 1:03.51 .He would make it back for an evening swim in the C final. In that final He would go out faster with a split of 29.62 to lead the field coming home. He would be edged for the win by Steve Stumph who won in 1:03.02.Fletcher would drop time again to get second place in a time of 1:03.11 and yet another national record. Fletcher continues to get closer to the Rio 2016 Olympic B time of 1:02.69.
Other CARIFTA region swimmers in action included Aruban Jordy Groters who made the B final of the 100 metre breaststroke. Groters came close to his national record of 1:03.22 when he turned in a time of 1:03.47 (split time 29.53) in the morning heats. He finished 8th in the B final in a time of 1:03.80. Countryman and teammate at University of Missouri Mikel Schreuders posted 1:57.12 (split time 56.17) for 52nd overall in the 200 metre freestyle. Jamaican Timothy Wynter was 43rd in the 100 metre butterfly with a time of 58.04 (split time 27.43).Bahamian sprint star Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace posted a time of 1:00.58 (split time 27.26) in the heats of the 100 metre butterfly. That performance was under the RIO 2016 B time of 1:00.80.