Rafael Van Leeuwaarde Photo courtesy of

The 2017 Southern Zone SPEEDO Sectionals in Plantation Florida saw the standard of regional swimming being lifted once again as national records were lowered. Those countries that saw improvement through the efforts of their swimmers included Rafael Van Leeuwaarde for Suriname, Lauren Hew for the Cayman Islands, Cameron Brown for Jamaica and Chadé Nercisio for Curaçao. The meet which was contested in long course metres at the Plantation Aquatic Complex was held from March 9 to 12.

Rafael, who is a junior at Florida State set national records in the 50 and 100 metre breaststroke. In the 50 metre breaststroke he lowered his own record from 29.07 to 28.84 in the heats of the event. He would go on to win Gold in the Final in a time of 29.16. The 100 metre breaststroke saw him lowering his 2016 record 1:04.84 to 1:04.36.It was a CARIFTA region exacta as Izaak Bastian of The Bahamas finished with the Silver medals in both races. Rafael who was a guest recently on Jamaica’s SportsNation Live on Nationwide 90 radio with host Leighton Levy spoke about his 50 metre record

Seeing myself go under 29 seconds for the first time was quite an accomplishment because I just did not see it happening .Everything just clicked and I got the best out of that race

Rafael Van Leeuwaarde interview

Lauren Hew Photo courtesy of

CARIFTA bound Lauren Hew would also be a part of the record breaking spree.  In the 100 metre freestyle Lauren became the first Cayman Islands woman to swim under 59 seconds. She swam 58.78 in the heats of the event. That broke the 2016 record of Lara Butler set at the British University Long Course Championships. That performance qualified Lauren for the Championship final where she placed 8th in 59.13. She would lower her own 2016 national mark of 2:07.81 in the 200 metre freestyle in the morning preliminaries. Lauren sped to a time of 2:07.79. The Championship final saw her placing 8th in a time of 2:08.45. Lauren who had placed 8th at the 2016 Martinique CARIFTA championships in the 15-17 girls’ 100 metre freestyle in 1:00.89 spoke to draftingthecaribbean about her performances after the meet

I was happy to lower my 200 free record even if it was by hundredths of a seconds Any improvement is a good sign and I was especially happy to drop time in 200 back because it is one of my main events. Sectionals was a good meet to have swam as a set up for CARIFTA so that I know what I need to work on for April.”

The 2016 CARIFTA Gold medals in the 15-17 girls category in the 100 and 200 metre freestyle events were won in times of 58.57 and 2:06.96.

Cameron Brown focusing before his race Photo courtesy of Ofelia Hamilton

Jamaican Cameron Brown is another swimmer set to compete at the 2017 CARIFTA Championships to be held in Nassau Bahamas from April 14-19.Brown who placed 8th in the 13-14 boys’ 100 metre breaststroke at CARIFTA in Martinique in 1:12.66 lowered his breaststroke mark again. After lowering the record to 1:09.93 in January he lowered the 13-14 age group mark again to 1:09.66. He has now set the national mark 3 times. He was the youngest qualifier for the B final at age 14 years old. In that race he touched in 7th place in a time of 1:10.46.In 2016 to medal in the 13-14 boys race it took 1:11.17 or faster.

Chadé Nercisio  Photo courtesy of Michael Lyn

Ace Sprinter from Curaçao Chadé Nercisioaçao who is now competing in the 15-17 age group set national records in 50 metre butterfly and 100 metre freestyle. In Martinique she was 5th in the 50 metre butterfly in 29.66 and a Bronze medallist in the 100 freestyle in 1:00.89 13-14 age. At the Caribbean Islands Swimming Championships in Bahamas later in the summer she was significantly faster posting times of 28.65 for Silver in the 50 metre butterfly and 58.45 for Gold in a Championship record. Both swims were national records. In Florida she would lower the butterfly record twice .In the morning she posted a time of 28.45. She got faster in the evening to win Gold in the Championship final in 28.22. In the B final of the 100 metre freestyle she won the event in a time of 58.21. The winning time in the 15 17 age group last year was 29.00.






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