ALISON JACKSON SPRINT FREESTYLE PRINCESS OF THE CAYMAN ISLANDS

Alison Jackson Gold medal CARIFTA 2017
Alison Jackson with one her Gold medals won at the 2017 CARIFTA Championships held in The Bahamas Photo courtesy of Michael Lyn

As the Championship meets for the summer of 2017 beckon draftingthecaribbean continues to look back at some of the top performers from the 2016-2017 so far. The performer being featured is Alison Jackson of the Cayman Islands for her sprint freestyle achievements at the 2017 CARIFTA Championships held from April 15-19 in The Bahamas.

With the availability of the top class facility in Nassau – the Betty Kelly Kenning National Swim Complex – and race commentary being provided by none other than the region’s best sprint freestyler (local heroine Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace) the motivation for Alison to perform well for her country would have been great.

On April 17 Alison lowered her personal best ,13-14 age group record, senior national record as well the CARIFTA record of 59.34 set by Bermudan Emma Harvey of 59.34 when she swam 58.22 (splits 27.71 and 30.51) in the preliminaries. In addition to those accolades it was also the fastest time ever done by a 13-14 girl in the Bahamas. Jackson would go on to win the Gold medal in the final in a time of 58.31. A day later she would complete the sprint double when she won the 50 metre in another personal best, 13-14 age group and senior national record of 26.97.That result made her the first female swimmer from the Cayman Islands ever to go under the 27 seconds mark. This marks the second sprint double for Alison in her CARIFTA career as she achieved the feat for the first time at the 2015 Barbados Championship in the 11-12 age group.

Alison powering her way to Gold in the 100 metre freestyle
Alison on her way to Gold in the 100 metre freestyle. Emily MacDonald the Silver medallist is seen below in her Gold Jamaica cap Photo courtesy of Michael Lyn

Since the 2005 CARIFTA Championships, no female swimmer from the Cayman Islands had medalled in the 50 and 100 freestyle events in the 13-14 age group. Jackson had given a sign of the speed to come as she had won the 200 metre freestyle crown with a winning time of 2:11.57. A year earlier in Martinique Jackson had the following places 50 metre freestyle 4th 27.48,100 metre freestyle 8th 1:01.60 and 200 metre freestyle 7th 2:17.26. Alison now has the national standards for the Cayman Islands for the sprint freestyle events for the 9-10, 11-12, 13-14 and senior categories.

She would win a Silver in the 800 metre freestyle relay that clocked 9:09.35.In the 400 metre freestyle relay the Cayman Island girls would win the Bronze in 4:12.00.

When draftingthecaribbean spoke to Jackson on June 7 she described winning three Gold medals.

“Winning the medals was a good reflection of where I’m at right now as a swimmer and helped to show where I can improve. Winning the 200 was a welcome shock because I only just started to really focus on middle distances this past season. Winning the 100 and 50 gave me an insight in to how I have improved my sprinting over the course of the season and where I still have room to improve”.

As the fastest female ever swimmer from The Cayman Islands she reflected on what her goals for the 50 metre freestyle before CARFITA

“I’ve had the goal to go under 27 seconds in the 50 freestyle for a while now. Now that I’ve done it I believe I still have ways to go and lots to improve on in this event. With our improving strength and sprint programmes I’m sure I will reach my full potential in this race”.

Alison also spoke about her summer plans

“While I’m not participating in CCCAN or World Juniors I am focusing on training this summer and then I am going to ISCA which is a meet in St. Petersburg. Although this meet isn’t as big as World Juniors it still gives me the opportunity to race people who are faster than me and who can push me in my races.”

Coach David Pursley and Alison
Coach David Pursley and Alison Photo courtesy of Stingray Swim Club

Draftingthecaribbean also was able to get an insight into Jackson’s performances and her development from head coach at the Stingray Swim Club David Pursley. In analyzing her Gold medal performances Coach Pursley offered these thoughts:

“Ali’s three wins were very reassuring to the direction we are heading. She has always had great potential in the sprints with her speed and strength but from a development stand point we have really been working hard to improve her stamina for the back end of her 100. The second night she was able to win the 200 free which helped to validate the work we have been doing the past couple seasons. Wehave seen the results in practice sets and day to day training but hadn’t yet put it together in the 200 in a big competition. I really feel even though it wasn’t her most impressive victory, that the 200 was her biggest break through and most important victory.

Her 100 was fun to watch and the most impressive 100 of her career. Though the last 15 meters still were not there. The 200 showed the progress we have made and the 100 showed us that there is still work to be done. She managed to maintain her rates longer than any 100 in the past but still dropped significantly in the last 15 meters. Her speed out was very impressive and she took an early commanding lead. It was nerve racking for me as it looked more aggressive than her prelims swim but she managed to show how tough and determined she is coming home.”

He also spoke about her going under 27 seconds and plans for her in the event

“The 50 free was good to get under 27 seconds which was a general goal. However there is still a long ways to go in this event. I truly believe that Ali will be very special in this event as her career unfolds. Her development right now is setting her up to see impressive results in the 50 a couple years down the road. She is nowhere near the potential I believe she has in this event. The 50 is all about speed and strength.

The strength program she is on will have her lifting with the best of them in three years’ time. It is a three year program that she is on that started 7 months prior. Ali has tremendous strength already but is nowhere near where she will be in 2019. She has proven to be a high responder to strength training and seems to really enjoy the process. I look forward to seeing what she will be doing. After hitting the peak of the program in 2019 she will hopefully be ready to really specify the strength aspect at an elite level by 2020.

To develop her speed we need to develop her coordination, balance, and technique. This is the first year we have introduced rate specific coordination exercises and really pressured for greater core stability and it seems to be paying off. Naturally Ali has great kinaesthetic awareness and is able to adjust and perform complicated movements fairly easily and quickly. From a technical stand point her focus right now is on improving her kick and her start”.

Coach David explaining a training set with Alison
Coach David explaining a training set to Alison. Photo courtesy of Stingray Swim Club

Coach Pursley also outlined the programme for Jackson

“As stated earlier Ali still has a focus on development and training. We have had talks on a four year plan for her working backwards from Tokyo. To stay on schedule and continue to develop we try to limit travel and rested competitions to 3 per year the first two years of the quad. April, early August, and December are the three best opportunities for competitions to allow full training cycles between each and to be sure she is getting the training and development she needs. If we add big travel competitions in between we lose 2-3 weeks depending on the rest each time when we could be improving capacities in strength, aerobic, or neural. Because Ali isn’t at the top yet we need to continue to focus on where she wants to be rather than showcasing where she is. This summer she will be traveling to St. Petersburg Florida August 2nd-5th for the ISCA Senior Summer Championships. This is a P/F LCM meet that is at the perfect competition level where Ali will have plenty of swimmers seeded in front of her to go after but will also have opportunities to compete for medals if she is at her best. With one travel meet to focus on we won’t lose any training time and can prepare fully for her swims.

In 2019 we will still travel 3 times but will reduce the number of full tapers in the year, to two in order to get a full strength progression in time for a hopeful Pan Am performance. From there we will have answers to the best plan forward. In summary we have a long term developmental focus right now”.

 

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