The 117th Annual Eastern Interscholastic Swimming and Diving Championships which was held from February 24-25, 2017 saw a number of the swimmers from the CARIFTA region participating at the prestigious Championships. In the girls category Jamaica was represented well by Shaun Johnson of Suffield Academy and Anjuii Barrett of the Peddie School. Both young ladies would earn Gold medals at the Championships venue Kunkel Aquatic Center at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster Pennsylvania.
Johnson would win 2 Gold medals and 1 Bronze medal. She would win her first medal in 200 yard freestyle relay .The team of Devina Bhalla 24.81, Eva Crouse 23.95, Johnson 23.39 and Sydney Winters 23.13 combined for a total effort of 1:35.28.The team won the event by over a second. That team performance was a new school and New England Prep School record. The previous school record was 1:37.66 .It was also the fastest winning time since 2014. Shaun had the 2nd fastest relay split of the 3 finals contested in the afternoon.
The Suffield Junior would double her Gold medal count in the 400 yard freestyle relay. The same quartet of Bhalla 52.97, Crouse 51.36, Johnson 51.48 and Winters 50.27 recorded a winning time of 3:26.08. That was a new Suffield school record and just off the New England Prep School record of 3:25.70. The previous school record was 3:29.64.It was also the fastest winning time since the Championship record was set in 2013.Shaun had the 4th fastest relay split of all the relay legs swum.
Her individual medal would be garnered in the 100 yard backstroke. Her season best had stood at 59.93 heading to Pennsylvania. She would crush that time to post 57.13 (split time 27.97). That time would again be lowered significantly as she took the Bronze medal in the Championship final with a swim of 55.89 (split time 26.76).
She would make another Championship final in the 100 yard butterfly. Johnson recorded a personal best of 58.37 (split time 26.73) to earn a second swim .In that final she swam 59.16 (split time 26.79) to place 8th.
Shaun offered these thoughts on her Eastern championships experience after the meet
“This meet was definitely more turbulent than I am used to. Being the first time in three years my school has participated in this championship; it was filled with unexpected competition and energy. My first day didn’t go as well as I’d anticipated; I gained time in my 100 Fly instead of dropping time. I really had to get it together after this disappointment, and focus my energy to the upcoming 200 freestyle relay, which definitely made up for my previous swim. Our 200 free relay now has our school’s 3 year old record, and the New England Prep School league one.
The following day, I raced the 100 backstroke and the 400 freestyle relay. I hadn’t expected much for the backstroke event, seeing as I had focused more of my energy into butterfly throughout the season. However, I surprised my teammates and myself with a personal best time by almost two full seconds in prelims, and another second and a half for finals to take the current school record. A 55.8 100 backstroke is definitely a next level step for me, and a very promising stride I believe. My 400 freestyle relay finished up the swim meet with a New England Prep School record and new school record.
Overall this meet was a great and very assuring experience, however I do hope to have faster relay splits this coming weekend ( New England New England Prep School Championships Marc 3-5) with more rest . With more than a month to prepare for CARIFTA, I definitely have to get back into full swing training by then. I set some goals for myself after last year’s Carifta Martinique so those are truly what I’m focusing on this spring”.
Her country woman Anjuii Barrett who is in her first season training in the United States lowered her personal best time in the preliminaries and Championship final to be crowned the Fastest female swimmer at Easterns. The time progression was 24.87 before Easterns to 24.27 to her Gold medal winning time of 24.00.
Barrett would also make it to three more Championship finals. In the 200 yard freestyle relay final she would give the Falcons the early lead as she had the fastest opening leg of 24.39. The team would finish 5th overall with a time of 1:39.31.
In the 100 yard freestyle heats she would drop more than a second off her seed time of 54.69 to post 53.42 (split time 26.11) to earn a second swim. In that final she placed 7th in 53.74 (split time 25.89).
The Falcons would finish 8th in the Championship final of the 400 yard freestyle relay .The total team time was 3:37.65 with Barrett on anchor leg duties which saw her recording a split of 53.69.She was faster in the heats with a time of 53.50.
Barrett speaking to draftingthecaribbean elaborated on her Gold medal winning performance at the championships
“I am just a sophomore, so after the prelims my coach told me that I am seeded 1 for the finals I was ecstatic. The other girls are seniors, how could it be I was in disbelief. To be honest I did not feel prepared for Easterns I was tired I had a major assignment to complete, my upcoming exams weighing heavily on my mind. For the past 3 years Peddie has won this event so I am happy I could carry on that legacy. I train hard I work on my stroke so I guess it all paid off”.
Suffield finished 4th in the girls category with 426 points. The Peddie School was 10th with 263.5 points.