Olympian Alex Sobers (Rio 2016) added a second senior national record to his name when he lowered the more than decade old record of 1:52.30 in the 200 metre freestyle held by Olympian Bradley Ally (Athens 2004,Beijing 2008,and London 2012).
Sobers powered his way to a time of 1:51.87 in the 4 lap event to place 20th overall. That swim was also the number 1 CARIFTA region performance in the event at the Commonwealth Games held in Gold Coast Australia. The previous fastest Barbadian performance at the Commonwealth Games was by another Olympian Damian Alleyne (Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004) at the 2002 Manchester Games who recorded a time of 1:53.61.
He would record another personal best and put the 100 metre freestyle record on notice when he stopped the clock in a time of 51.12 (split time 24.59). The national record stands at 50.40 to Shawn Clarke in 2009.
It was also the fastest time by a swimmer from Barbados at the Commonwealth Games as he bettered Alleyne’s 2002 effort of 52.48. Sobers was second fastest swimmer from the region placing 29th. It would be a hattrick of personal bests as he clocked 23.75 in the 50 metre freestyle to place 28th.
Alex recently earned the honour of being named the Male Athlete of the Year for his school Emmanuel College at the annual 4th Annual Leo Athletic Awards for his accomplishments which included being
a Six time Sun Coast Swimming Conference Champion
a Nine time Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Champion
Having an undefeated 26-0 dual meet record
Being the holder of Seven school records
Earning NCAA National Championship qualifying times in 9 different events this season
His performance at the 2017 World Aquatic Championships
His national record breaking performance at the 2018 Commonwealth Games
When draftingthecaribbean got in touch with the record holder on April 26th he spoke about the 200 metre race and expectations heading into the competition
” I felt really good before the 200 free because I was confident in the training I put in .The heat had James Guy (2015 World champion in the event) in it so that really gave me a good push to do a best time. I didn’t necessarily set expectations for the meet .I was really excited to go Australia. The atmosphere was really exciting ,it was my first big (multisport) games since the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Coach at the Commonwealth Games Aisha Norville also spoke to draftingthecaribbean and gave her impressions of Sobers personal best swims and the outlook for her nation heading to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“Alex gave a commendable performance at the Games. His focus will shift to the Cac games where it is hoped that he makes a few finals.Looking towards 2020 I believe swimming in Barbados should be well represented but it’s still a bit early to say because a lot can still happen in 2 years. Jack Kirby continues to improve extremely well in his backstroke events and I’m sure he would be looking for an ‘A’ qualifying time for Tokyo. As for Alex I believe he would want to convert his ‘B’ time from Rio as a then 16 year old to an ‘A’ time. Barbados would also have backstroker Danielle Titus and Luis Sebastian Weekes aiming for qualifying times for Tokyo”
Of the debutantes on this year’s CARIFTA team Morgan Cogle in the 11-12 age group led the medal charge for that group with Six medals.She swam her way to Two Gold , Two Silver and Two Bronze medals.
In the 200 metre backstroke she ended a five year medal drought when she took the Silver when she touched in a time of 2:38.19. The last medallist was teammate Annabella Lyn who won Silver as in front of a home crowd as well in 2013 That also is the fastest time recorded by a Jamaican girl in that age group in over a decade at CARIFTA.
The 100 metre backstroke saw her ending a more than five year long medal drought as she won the Bronze in 1:13.55.The last podium finish was in 2012 by age group backstroke standout Angara Sinclair in The Bahamas.
Three medals were won in the relays. The 200 metre freestyle relay was a national record as she joined teammates Safiya Officer,Isabella Sierra and Aliyah Heaven in winning in a Championship record of 1:55.47.
There would be another relay Gold when the team of Officer,Heaven,Ireland Hunter and Cogle took the victory in 4:19.13.
In the mixed 400 metre freestyle relay Devaughn Robe and Adrian Balfour joined Cogle and officer to take the Bronze in 4:13.73.
The 100 metre freestyle saw her continuing a strong Jamaican tradition of medalling almost every year in the sprint freestyle events when she won the Silver in 1:03.11.
When Draftingthecaribbean spoke to the young swimmer on April 7 about her debut in the Jamaican colours “I was happy for the opportunity to represent Jamaica. I was also glad to be able to help the team by winning the medals. I am excited for more to come!”
At the 2018 CARIFTA in Kingston Jamaica it seemed fitting if not almost poetic that Izaak Bastian of the Bahamas would win the 50 metre freestyle in a Championship record and crown himself the fastest of all time in a country known for its sprinting abilities. Added to that the previous Championship record was also set in Jamaica five years earlier .
In 2017 Bastian had made the medal podium with a Silver medal winning effort in front of his home crowd with a time of 23.76 in the 15-17 age group. That was his PB and his only entry under the 24 seconds barrier. He posted 24.35 to be the fourth fastest heading into the Championship final.That morning swim on April 3 pointed towards another sub 24 clocking as he was 24.33 in the heats in 2017. He would be well under 24 seconds and would be the only swimmer under 23.50 as he took the title and wrote another page in the history books as set a new PB , Championship record and earned himself the moniker of the fastest swimmer at the CARIFTA Championships when he stopped the clock in 23.25. Silver went to Kai Legband of Bermuda in 23.93 and the Bronze to Jack Kirby of Barbados in 24.03.
In 2013 future Olympian Renzo Tjon A Joe (Rio 2016) set the 50 metre freestyle record with a heat swim of 23.37 on April 2.He would take the Gold just off that time as he touched in 23.44 turning back the challenges of the Trinidad and Tobago duo of another future Olympian Dylan Carter (Rio 2016) 23.46 and Joshua Romany 24.27. A year later he would take the Silver in the same event at the CAC Games in Veracruz Mexico with a time of 22.62.
Speaking to Draftingthecaribbean today Bastian recounted that historic swim in Jamaica
“The 50 free was pretty good for me.I knew that I had to get out in front of everyone from the start to get out of the waves and get clear water.I wanted to see what I could do at the start and build on that momentum throughout the race.I did not have a goal time I just wanted to give the race my all and focus on the things we have been working on in practice coming off the block fast , fast breakout. I did not really look at the record before I did not really think I would get the record.It was a big surprise to look up see that I went 23.2”
Day one of the Tennessee State Champs on Friday Feb 9 saw the CARIFTA region earning Two Gold medal from the Barbados Boys at Baylor Luis Sebastian Weekes and Jack Kirby.
Luis won his first individual Gold medal in his final high school meet in the 200 yard individual medley. He had set a new personal best of 1:51.36 (Split time 52.72) in the event at the SPEEDO Winter Nationals -East in December but would not be content with that in his final school meet. In the morning heats he cruised to the Championship final with a new PB of 1:50.99 (split time 52.45) to be the top seed. In the final he opened faster than in the preliminaries with butterfly split of 24.29 to be fourth. He then unleashed a 27.78 backstroke leg to take the lead and halfway split of 52.01 .Jack Hamilton of Webb tried to make a move with Weekes and stay close with his split of 52.34. As the boys from Baylor have shown they have superior back end speed and this would be no different Weekes pulled away on the breaststroke leg to gain a lead of more than a second then recorded the fastest freestyle leg of the meet of 26.35 to record yet another personal best of 1:50.22 to win by almost 2 seconds. Gabriel Johnson of Chattanooga Home School won Silver in 1:51.95 and Hamilton won the Bronze in 1:52.68. The Gold emphasized the great improvement Weekes has made in the last year as he finished 4th last year in 1:52.17. He now moves form 11th all time at Baylor to 4th and the number one CARIFTA region swimmer at the school.
The meet started with the CARIFTA connection of Kirby and Weekes providing the first half of the Gold medal winning 200 medley relay team.
In the preliminaries Kirby continued his great PB breaking streaking when he broke 23 seconds for the 50 yard backstroke for the first time. His previous best was 23.03 set leading off the relay team at the SPEEDO Winter Junior National Championships –East. Yesterday he rocketed to 22.65. In the final he was again under 23 seconds leading off in 22.82. Weekes provided a breaststroke split of 25.41 to give Baylor an insurmountable two second lead. Teammates Zach Althoff butterfly 21.96 and Piotr Kurleto freestyle 20.37 ensured that the team romped home to a more than two second win clocking 1:30.56. Maryville High won Silver in 1:33.99 and McCallie won Bronze with Jamaican Alex Mignott doing anchor leg duties in 1:34.78.
This win is the third fastest performance in Baylor history. The second fastest includes the quartet that had Kirby leading off at the 2017 Winter Junior Nationals that did 1:30.55. The fastest time at Baylor and the fastest high school performance is 1:27.74 from 2014 that included Bahamian Dustin Tynes and Barbadian Christian Selby. This is the first Gold medal for Baylor since the 2015 season where the team won in 1:32.20 and included Bahamian Gershwin Greene and Selby.
The final day of the UANA CUP in Coral Springs Florida saw Jack Kirby of Barbados completing the backstroke sprint double. Kirby would be the best placed swimmer from the CARIFTA region as he placed second overall with 26.5 points. Kirby, who was fittingly named Junior Athlete of the Year for 2017 for his nation lived up to that accolade by producing yet another another stellar performance.
He started his run of good performances by completing the CARIFTA region trifecta in the 50 metre backstroke. Earlier Zarek Wilson of Trinidad and Tobago and Lamar Taylor of The Bahamas captured the 11-12 and 13-14 crowns respectively.
He won the event in a time of 26.63 holding off Mexican standout Guillermo Cruz Zuniga who stopped the clock 26.73 .Matheus Zacharias of Brazil won the Bronze in 27.16. Kirby’s effort lowered his previous 15-17 national record of 26.88 set at the World Junior Championships in Indianapolis on August 25.It also bettered the Youth Olympic Games A qualifying standard of 26.73.He completed the backstroke double after winning the 100 metre in an new age group and Youth Olympic A standard time of 56.34.
In his sights for the CARIFTA Games will be the Championship record of 26.31 set by Trinidad and Tobago’s David McLeod at the 2014 Aruba Championships.
In the 100 metre freestyle he placed 4th in a time of 52.04 (split time 25.70) .He was just out touched by Zacharias who punched the clock in 51.96. Kirby’s strong back end speed was evidenced yet again as he produced the fastest last 50 metres of the competition of 26.34.
His effort earned him yet another age group record as he lowered the 52.25 (split time 25.42) set by Olympian Alex Sobers (Rio 2016) when he won Gold at the 2016 CARIFTA Championships in Martinique.
In the very last event of the day the mixed 200 metre freestyle relay Kirby lead off the Barbados team with a time of 23.68. That broke yet another Sobers age group standard of 24.14. Alex had set the record in the heats of the 50 metre freestyle at the 2016 CARIFTA championships. That also puts Kirby within striking distance of the Youth Olympics A standard time of 23.56. The other members of the team Danielle Titus 27.79, McKayla Treasure 29.31 and Luis Sebastian Weekes helped to produce a total time of 1:45.39 just missing the age group record of 1:45.16 to place 8th overall. The national age group record was set by the team of Sobers, Hannah Gill, Damon St Prix and Treasure set at the 2016 Caribbean Island Swimming championships in The Bahamas.
With that swim Kirby has put his name in the conversation to swim the event at CARIFTA in Jamaica and possibly go after the Championship record of 23.37 set by Olympian Renzo Tjon A Joe (Rio 2016) of Suriname at the 2013 Kingston Championships. Kirby gave his thoughts about his final day performances to draftingthecaribbean
“To me the race (50 metre backstroke) didn’t feel that great but the outcome was good. For the 100 free, the plan was to make the same time or better from the day before. For the 50 free, the goal was just to make the 23 from the start of the meet so making it on the second attempt was a great feeling”.
The final day of the UANA Cup in Coral Springs Florida on January 21 started with Lamar Taylor of The Bahamas with a Silver medal from the 50 metre freestyle. By the end of the competition he would be the CARIFTA region’s top performer in the boy’s 13-14 age group winning three more medals of each colour Gold, Silver and Bronze.
Taylor got the day got off in the best possible manner as he took the 50 metre backstroke Gold in a new personal best of 28.62 bettering his old record 29.20. In fact he was the only person under the 29 seconds barrier as Gabriel Nascimento of Brazil won the Silver in 29.21 and Ramiro Faya of Argentina won the Bronze in 29.33.
Up next was the 100 metre freestyle where he recorded yet another personal best of 54.77 (split 26.56) to take the Bronze. His previous personal standard was 55.09.In that race the first five finishers were all within a second of each other . Victor Salcedo Carrillo of Mexico won the race in 54.00 and Gustavo Saldo of Brazil won Silver in 54.24.
In his final event the 50 metre butterfly he and eventual winner Gabriel Dias of Brazil were the only sub 27 seconds swimmers as they touched in 26.59 and 26.46. It would be yet another personal best for Lamar as his old record was 26.97.
In speaking to draftingthecaribbean after his swims he had the following thoughts
“I went three for three in PRs and medals in all my events today. My races were good today. In my 50 metre backstroke I was just trying to turn over as fast as I could and have some good underwater kicks. In the 100 metre freestyle I had my sights set on 54.78 and I went 54.77 and I was happy about that time because I know I gave it my best. It is a great feeling to PR and medal at a high class meet like this during the season. In the 50 metre butterfly it my aim to go 26 and I did it and came second. I feel great about my swims and hope that I can do even better as the year progresses”. Taylor was third overall with in the high point rankings with 37 points. Barbados had the best placed relay team of the competition with a fourth place finish in the 200 metre medley relay in a new national age group record time. The team of Tristan Pragnell,McCallum Clarke ,Roan Baker and Kai Trotman touched in a total time of 1:58.81. That bettered the national standard of 2:03.83 set way back in 1993.
Day Two of the UANA Cup saw outstanding performances from the CARIFTA region’s swimmers in the 15-17 age group. The names Jacky Kirby of Barbados Gold 100 metre backstroke, Izaak Bastian of The Bahamas Gold 50 metre breaststroke and Kael Yorke of Trinidad and Tobago Bronze 100 metre butterfly were the headline acts.
Kirby, who was named Junior Athlete of the Year for 2017
was sensational in winning the 100 metre backstroke in a time of 56.34.That broke his age group record of 57.01 set at the Commonwealth Youth Games in July in The Bahamas.
It also brings him closer the senior national record of 55.88 Olympian Bradley Ally (Athens 2004, Beijing 2008,London 2012) set at the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai China .Ally splits then were 27.38 and 28.50. Not only did Jack establish a meet record for the event he also beat the Youth Olympics A qualifying mark of 56.96. He went out in 27.40 and came back in 28.94. No other swimmer at the meet had Jack’s back end speed in the event as he recorded the only sub 30 seconds second 50 metre split. Silver went to Guillermo Cruz Zuniga of Mexico who clocked 58.80 and the Bronze to Anthony Rincón Velasco of Colombia who was timed in 59.25.Jack gave his impressions of the race to draftingthecaribbean after the race
“The goal for the 100 metre backstroke was to make the 56 low.I had no idea about the senior national record I was just really focusing on the 56 low. I really wanted to get that time because by summer I want to get into the 55 range.Also in terms of competing in 2020 this helps in getting me to 53”.
Also winning Gold and establishing a new meet record was Izaak Bastian of The Bahamas who touched in a time of 29.23 just out touching Cruz Zuniga of Mexico won another Silver in 29.32. Andre Martijena Díaz of the Dominican Republic took the Bronze in 30.19.Izaak gave his thoughts about the race after his win
“The 50 breaststroke was much better than I expected it to be.I did not expect to feel as good as I did in the water.There were a few small things I felt I could fix.I felt I was rushing my stroke a little bit but that just comes with more practice and experience in the race and getting up and going in the morning.That was what this meet was all about for me trying to go as fast as I can in the morning so I can get used to those other big meets like the Commonwealth Games coming up where I am used to swimming fast at night and not in the morning.I am trying to change that to swimming fast in the morning so those swims actually count for something instead of just holding back for the night.I know when I go those bigger meets I wont be able to hold back and maybe not even get a second swim.The race itself was pretty good I got to race some really fast guys.It was a close one this morning I don’t know how I pulled it off my last 5 metres I tried to hold it all together and come in as I fast as I could and finish on a full stroke”.
Kael Yorke won the Bronze in the 100 metre butterfly. He spoke to draftingthecaribbean about his races
“ For my first event the 50 freestyle it wasn’t as good as I expected it to be because I added on time and I wasn’t feeling myself in the water I didn’t let it get to me because I have not been training for while. I took a long break for the Christmas holidays and I only started back training nine days ago so it was a good attempt at the 50 freestyle. I put the focus on my 100 metre butterfly today and tried to do my best. For training for only nine days I thought I did well I swam a 56 not far from my personal best off 55 which was a tapered time. Overall the UANA Cup experience has been a good one so far.The weather conditions are not what my teammates and I are used to because we are accustomed to warmer weather but just being able to compete at this level with the Mexicans, the Colombians and Central Americans is a great experience and I continue to strive to do better in my other events”
Other top CARIFTA region swimmers for the day included