It was a memorable night for the CARIFTA region on March 15 as Alex Sobers and Nico Campbell won Gold and Silver on Day Three of the NCAA Division II championships.
Alex Sobers created history for himself, the Emmanuel College Lions , Barbados and the CARIFTA region when he topped the field to lift the 500 yard freestyle crown. He cruised in the morning heats to record a time of 4:25.37 to be fifth heading into the Championship final. It was in that the night’s final that Sobers brought the fire to the event. He signalled his intentions from the opening 100 yards when he clocked 48.40. No one else was under the 49 seconds barrier. The 6,2 junior from Bridgetown kept turning on the pressure on the field opening up a lead of more than a body length lead .Adrian VanderHelm , a senior from Simon Fraser tried to make a late charge on the final 50 yards but Alex had done all the work already to secure the Lions first Division II title as he won in 4:21.09. VenderHelm won the Silver in 4:22.23 and the Bronze went to Adam Rosipal of Indy Grehounds in 4:23.23.
Alex’s win created a number of milestones . One was the first title for Emmanuel College in their first season in Division II. It also marked the time a swimmer from the CARIFTA region has won the 500 yard freestyle in Division II.In fact no other swimmer man or woman has won the title in this event in Division I or III. Alex also recorded the fifth fastest winning time in the 55 years has been contested in Division II.
Draftingthecaribbean spoke Alex about his race and he gave his thoughts on his historic swim
“Winning the 500 yard freestyle was really exciting for me and my team.This is our first year in the NCAA’s so me winning this made the first All american and National champion.It is really cool for me and my team. I really feel very proud about this accomplishment”.
Jamaican senior Nico Campbell add to his legacy at the NCAA Division II with a second consecutive Silver medal in the 800 yard freestyle relay. His Florida Southern College team earned their spot in the medal podium with a time of 6:29.64. The Gold went to Queens in 6:25.13 and the Bronze to Simon Fraser in 6:32.00.
Campbell had the fifth fastest leg of all the competing 18 teams. It was also the fastest time Nico had ever produced at Nationals.
Draftingthecaribbean contacted Campbell who is the best Jamaica has ever produced in the 200 yard freestyle and got his thoughts about the Silver medal winning performance
“Going into the 800 yard freestyle relay we were seeded second going into the meet and it was our goal to keep that second place. We went into the race knowing that Queens were probably going to win the race but like all races anything could happen so we went in with an open mind.We all executed the race as we should have and it lead to a second place finish.It was really great as I had some fellow senior teammates that were finishing their last race on that relay.I t was really nice to be along them and win that Silver and it was really a great achievement”.
The second night of action at the NCAA Division II championships saw the CARIFTA region nations of Barbados,The Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica all involved in finals. Medals were earned by Alex Sobers of Barbados and Emmanuel College and Kohen Kerr of The Bahamas and Delta State University.
In the morning heats the Statesmen team of Giulio Brugnoni,Alex Zolotuhkin,Mattia Schirru and Kerr lowered the school record of 1:19.98 to 1:19.36. The same quartet had finished fourth in the 2018 Championship final in a time of 1:20.33. The final would prove to memorable as the team from Cleveland,Mississippi went even faster to claim the Bronze in a tight final in a new school record of 1:19.11. That is the best result for Delta State for more than a decade.
Draftingthecaribbean spoke to Kerr this morning about his team’s record breaking feats
” My relay teammates and I really enjoyed our morning swim.We did not expect to go that fast as we did in the morning.Not all of our relay team swam as fast as they could.In the night we decided we were going to do better.We tried to come second but unfortunately it did not happen but we all went close to our best times in our 50 splits. We came third which is a school record and the third fastest time in the nation so we were pretty happy about that”.
In the 200 yard freestyle Championship final Sobers created history for Emmanuel College Lions as he became the first swimmer from the Franklin Springs Georgia based team to win a medal in the event . Alex lowered his personal best and school record from 1:35.32 to 1:34.76 to win the Silver medal.
Gold was won by Alex Kunert of Queens in 1:33.56 and the Bronze to his teammate Alec Mosic in 1:36.00. Sobers is the fastest ever swimmer from Barbados in this event.
When draftingthecaribbean spoke to Sobers he had the following thoughts on his medal winning performance “I was really excited to swim the 200 freestyle yesterday .I knew I had to push with the guy from Queens (kunert) as he is a really good competitor.Overall it was a really good race and I improved my time.This is my team’s first time at Nationals so we are really here to do our best and have fun”.
Kael Yorke’s Greyhounds rattled their school record in the 400 yard medley Championship final when the recorded a time of 3:12.87 for fifth place. Yorke had split 48.02 and then 48.05 in the morning heats and Championship final respectively for his butterfly leg.
Jamaica’s best 200 yard freestyler Nico Campbell equalled his best ever placing in the event at the National championships with a third place finish in the B final. Campbell’s best time at these Championships stood at 1:38.09. He was faster than that in the heats and final with times of 1:37.24 and 1:37.43 , the third and sixth fastest performances of his career. No other Jamaican swimmer has dipped under the 1:38 barrier other than Nico. In the 200 freestyle relay his Florida Southern College placed sixth in the B final with a time of 1:21.72 .In the morning heats they had recorded a time of 1:21.29. Nico’s splits in the morning and evening were 20.03 and 19.83 respectively.
The record in the 200 yard freestyle relay belongs to Tampa at 1:17.27 set in 2016 . Included in that lineup was St Lucia’s Jordan Augier who had a game changing leg to propel the Spartans to the Gold and the Division II record
The first day of action at the 2019 NCAA Division II Champs on March 13 at the IU Natatorium, Indianapolis saw three CARIFTA region nations with the participation of Kael Yorke from Trinidad and Tobago representing University of Indianapolis, Alex Sobers of Barbados representing Emmanuel College and Nico Campbell of Jamaica representing Florida Southern College.
Yorke’s Greyhounds would be the best placed 200 yard medley relay of the morning finishing fifth to advance to the Championship final with a new school record of 1:27.65.
That bettered the old record of 1:28.11 they established in the 2018 Championship when they finished sixth. The 2019 team finished fifth again in the final with a time just below their record breaking morning swim of 1:27.68. Yorke had a butterfly split of 21.81 in the night.Gold went to Queens in a time of 1:25.22.
Sobers’ Lions had a morning heats swim of 1:29.20 .Alex provided an anchor leg of 20.22 .In the consolation final they placed third in a new school record of 1:28.24
They bettered the record they set in a time trial at the 2019 Bluegrass Mountain / Carolinas Conference Championships .
Campbell’s team finished just outside the top 16 with a time of 1:29.76 to place 19th. Nico anchored the team in a time of 20.26. In the individual 50 yard freestyle Campbell placed 42nd in a time of 20.73
Alex Sobers of Barbados continues to add to his swimming legacy with another five star performance for the Emmanuel College Lions at the 2019 Conference Carolinas Men’s Swimming Championship at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center in Charlotte,North Carolina. Sobers laid waste to all his personal bests and conference records in every single event that he contested.
The opening battle in the 200 yard medley relay saw the Lions disqualified. With a moniker such as Lions the team from Franklin Springs would not be deterred or bowed and swam a time trial in the event . And what time trial it was as the Lions shattered the school record , the Carolinas record and recorded the eighth fastest time in the NCAA Division II so far.
The previous school and conference records previously stood at 1:30.43 in 2017 and 1:30.08 by the 2018 Limstone College team.
Sobers denied a Gold medal with the disqualification would certainly make up for it with his performances in his remaining events.
Coming to the Conference Championships Alex was the holder of the 500 yard freestyle mark with a time of 4:27.56 set in 2017. The 2018 conference record belonged to Robert Zamarano of Barton who had stopped the clock in 4:42.09. Both marks were swept away with disdain in Sobers’ preliminary swim as he touched in 4:22.74. Now already the best his school and the conference had ever seen in the event the final served to be a coronation ceremony as he lowered that time to win by over 20 seconds and record a time of 4:19.41 , the fastest time currently in Division II . The Division II record of 4:17.09 held by Dutch Olympian Dion Dreesens while competing for Queens University of Charlotte can officially be put on notice.
Comparison of Personal best splits
Sobers is now the fastest ever English speaking Caribbean and CARIFTA region swimmer in the event bettering the 4:25.03 set by countryman and Olympian Damian Alleyne in Nov 1999. Alleyne set that time as 16 year old swimming for the world renowned Bolles school in Jacksonville Florida . He still holds the Bolles record for the 15-16 age group .He set that time at the 1999 4A state when it was a then record performance.The girls record is held by Jamaican Olympian Janelle Atkinson . The record board also includes names such as US Olympic gold medallist Caleb Dressel.
Top times from the Region
The Lions would roar to an emphatic win of more than five seconds in the 400 yard medley relay. Falling by the wayside was the school record of 3:18.77 and the Carolinas conference record of 3:17.84
Sobers had the fastest time of the relay that bettered his 43.68 when he was the anchor on the team that set the school record in 2017. It also puts the Lions as the 16th fastest team in Division II.
In the 200 yard freestyle relay the same quartet put up a gold medal winning time of 1:21.53 . That places them 16th in Divison II and broke the Conference record.
The 200 yard freestyle saw the 2018 Carolinas record of 1:40.43 set by Saint Leo ‘s Fridtojov Mork taken down in the heats when Sobers touched in a time of 1:37.94. He crowned himself King and the best the conference has ever since when he set a new PB, School record and conference record of 1:35.32 (split time 46.41). That ranks him as the second fastest in Division II.He crushed the field by more than five seconds.
In the 100 yard freestyle he again took down the Conference record in the heats with a swim of 44.25. The old record belonged to Mork of Saint Leo with a time of 45.06.The final saw the Lions going 1-2 as Sobers recorded his first sub 44 seconds clocking of 43.65 (split time 20.86).Silver went to teammate Rose in 44.01. Sobers bettered his PBof 44.20 and Rosa’s school record of 44.00.The swim places Sobers ninth overall in the Division.
Sobers and his teammates capped the meet with yet another school and conference record in the 400 yard freestyle relay and a winning margin of almost ten seconds.They stopped the clock in a time of 2:57.90
The old school and conference records stood at 2:58.24 and 3:00.34.
For his tremendous efforts Sobers was named Carolinas Co -swimmer of the Year along with his teammate Joao Santos. The Lions finished second to Barton College amassing 732 points.
Sobers continues to raise the bar for his country with record breaking exploits. In December draftingthecaribbean spoke with Damian Alleyne, a leader in the freestyle events in his time from the late 90’s to early 2000’s, after Sobers lowered his national record in the 200 metre freestyle at the World Short Course Swimming Championships in in China from 1:48.98 to 1:47.55. Alleyne belonged to a Golden era of male swimming in Barbados that included such names asNicky Neckles, Bradley Ally, Cliff Gittens, Martyn Forde, Shawn Clarke,Andrei Cross among others. We spoke to Alleyne about his record breaking swim in 2001 and what what Alex’s swim in China meant in the context of swimming in Barbados moving forward
” To be honest, I don’t remember the exact details of my swim, I believe I was home for SC Nationals at Christmas and managed to squeeze that time out. As far as what Alex has accomplished, I believe it shows a positive progression for the sport of swimming in Barbados and the Caribbean. I am very proud of Alex and what he has been able to accomplish in his swimming career and I can’t wait to see what more he can achieve! I always had the mindset that I wanted to set the bar for swimming in Barbados. I wanted to make sure that bar was so high that the next swimmer to come along and challenge it would be a legitimate, world class, athlete and Alex has displayed this. I wish him all the best in any future endeavors and can’t wait to see how much further he takes the sport for the next generation to aspire to”.
Jack Kirby of Barbados was recognized for his outstanding performances for the year 2018 by his nation’s Olympic Association on December 20 at BOA and Flow awards ceremony at the Barbados Hilton when he was named Junior Sportsman of the Year. This is the second consecutive year he is being bestowed with this honour after being given the accolade in 2017 as well. This is the third year that a swimmer is being recognized as the top junior sportsman as Olympian Alex Sobers won the award in 2016
Kirby who is one of the top regional junior swimmers in the sprint freestyle events and sprint individual medley but is known primarily in regional circles as being the top swimmer in the backstroke record shows
56.59 59 CR
2:11.64, 205.22 NAGR
26.07 NR ,NAGR
In 2018 Kirby established himself as the fastest ever swimmer at UANA and CARIFTA swimming Championships in the sprint backstroke events. And in his senior international debut at the CAC Games he was the youngest swimmer in the 50 and the 100 metre backstroke Championship final. He is the best backstroker of all time in the 15-17 age group and the fastest backstroker of all time for Barbados with his 26.07 clocking in the 50 metre backstroke.
National records in 2018
At the 2018 SPEEDO Winter Junior Championships in North Carolina held in a 25 yard pool Kirby recorded a big personal best in the 100 yard backstroke heats. This as he dipped below the 48 seconds barrier for the first time in his career to record a time of 47.88. It also puts as him only the third swimmer from Baylor to break 48 seconds .
Kirby represents Baylor both at school and club level in the United States. In February of last year he also captured Gold in the 100 yard backstroke by over a second in a then personal best at the Tennessee State Championships.
Draftingthecaribbean spoke to Kirby and asked him for this thoughts on receiving this award and what was the high point for him in 2018
“I’m extremely very grateful to be chosen for the award because I know I was chosen amongst many Bajan athletes on the same level as me. The highlight for this year has to be (Central American and Caribbean) CAC Games in Barranquilla. I say CAC Games because my competitors were older than me and I was still able to compete with them in finals”.
Not one to rest on his laurels the University of Southern California bound Kirby representing Baylor today Jan 10,2019 made the Championship final of the 50 metre backstroke at the 2019 TYR Pro Swim Series #1 – Knoxville
The second day of the 14th FINA World Swimming Championships in Hangzhou China saw Trinidad and Tobago’s Dylan Carter as the top swimmer from the region in the 200 metre freestyle.
Carter topped the best from the region with a time of 1:43.74 (split time 49.43) to finish 12th overall. In 2016 Windsor he was the top swimmer as well as he had made the Championship final.
Second from the region was El Salvador’s Marcelo Acosta shattered his national record from the 2014 Championships of 1:49.93 in Qatar with a swim of 1:47.00 to placed 29th overall.In Qatar he had placed 51st overall.
Another swimmer in record smashing form was Alex Sobers from Barbados. He lowered the 2001 national mark of 1:48 .98 with a time of 1:47.55 (split time 52.60) to place 32nd overall.Damian Alleyne. Damian was one of the most dominant swimmers from the region in the late 1990’s to early 2000’s. In 2016 at the Windsor Championships Sobers had placed 57th with a time of 1:49.69 (split time 53.27).
Yeziel Morales of Puerto Rico was just off his national record of 1:50.58. He placed 44th overall in a time of 1:50.73 (split time 53.81).
Noah Mascoll-Gomes set a new national record when he placed 45th overall. He stopped the clock in a time of 1:51.60 (split time 54.58).
Barbadian Olympian Alex Sobers established himself as the best from the English speaking Caribbean in the 400 metre freestyle when he had won the 15-17 crown at the now defunct Caribbean Islands Swimming Championships with a time of 3:57.30 in 2016 in The Bahamas.
He would dip under the 4 minute mark again on his Olympic debut at the Rio Games with a time of 3:59.97. Since then it he would have a number of close shaves with that barrier recording 4:00.17 at the 2017 CCCAN Championships in Trinidad and Tobago and 4:00.50 at the 2017 Budapest World Championships.
On July 23 at the 2018 Central American and Caribbean Games in Barranquilla Colombia he registered a preliminary round time of 4:01.42.That propelled him to Championship final. In the final that afternoon he destroyed his old national mark to place seventh in 3:55.50.
400 metre freestyle
2018 CAC Games
First 100 metres
Second 100 metres
Third 100 metres
Fourth 100 metres
Speaking to draftingthecaribbean after his record swim Sobers said “I am really proud and excited to do 3:55 which is a best time and to break my national record as I was struggling to produce a sub 4 minute swim for a really long time”
Alex bettered the 2019 Gwangju LCM World Championships and 2018 Hangzhou SCM World Championships B standard of 3:56.14. He is closing in on the the 2019 Lima PAN AM Games automatic qualifying standard of 3:54.44 and as well as the provisional Tokyo 2020 B standard 3:53.58. The final Olympic standards will be ratified in December by FINA.
Alex will be in his junior college at Emmanuel College which is now a full member of the Division II and will be a member of the Conference Carolinas. For the 2017-2018 season he was named by his school as the Male Athlete of the Year Annual Leo Athletic Awards. He hold the school records in the 200 and 500 yard freestyle with times of 1:35.95 and 4:27.56.