Notre Dame with Jamaican senior Justin Plaschka in their ranks recorded top ten relay times in the 400 medley and 200 yard freestyle relays against Texas A&M last weekend. The dual meet which was hosted by the Fighting Irish from Oct 13-14 saw them going down 159.5 to 193.5. Despite the loss the team still recorded strong performances.


In the 200 yard freestyle relay the team of Plaschka 20.46, Tabahn Afrik 19.98, Dan Fujan 20.66 and Daniel Speers 19.90 recorded 1:21.00 to win the event. That total time bettered the 1:21.31 they recorded at the Dennis Stark relays on October 6.It also places them as the 8th fastest team in the NCAA this season so far.

Justin Plaschka 2017 Texas and m
Justin Plaschka in action in dual meet against Texas A&M Photo courtesy of


The 400 yard medley with Justin handling butterfly duties placed 2nd in the race with a time of 3:16.16. Plaschka, with a split time of 47.36 helped Notre Dame post their fastest time so far and the 5th best ranked time in the NCAA. Notre Dame’s previous best time was 3:23.56.

The 400 yard freestyle relay team of Afrik 44.68, Plaschka 44.48,Aaron Schultz 44.01 and Speers 45.12 had a winning time of 2:58.29. That was just off their 6th ranked and season best effort of 2:58.11.

Plaschka would get his hand first to the wall in the 50 yard freestyle when he stopped the clock in a time of 20.22. The longer sprint, the 100 yard freestyle saw him narrowly defeated by Texas A&M’s 44.20 to 44.28 (split time 21.09).

Justin Plaschka Photo courtesy of Michael Lyn

Justin, who is marketing major enrolled in the Mendoza College of Business, is the fastest active swimmer from the island in the 50 and 100 metre freestyle as well as the 50 and 100 metre butterfly. He holds the national records in three of the aforementioned events and will be one of the swimmers that should be on the teams representing Jamaica internationally for the 2017-2018 season.

Analysis of Plaschka’s best time and how he would have placed at the 2014 Commonwealth and CAC Games

Event Time CAC 2014 Commonwealth Games 2014
50 metre freestyle 22.77 NR 4th 10th
100 metre freestyle 50.92 4th 17th
50 metre butterfly 24.21 NR Silver 10th
100 metre butterfly 54.71 NR 5th 17th

The Fighting Irish will next be in action on Friday October 20 when they host Georgia Tech.



Michael Gunning made an immediate impact for Jamaica in his debut season by setting national records in the 200 and 400 metre freestyle  and 200 metre butterfly events early in the year.

Michael Gunning in action at the FINA WORLD Swimming Championships in Budapest Photo courtesy of GETTY images/Adam Pretty


Gunning would go on to do more for the island at the 17th FINA World Championships from July 14 to 30 where he lowered the national record in the 200 metre freestyle and also recorded the best times and placings by a Jamaican in the World Championships in Budapest Hungary in the 200 butterfly and freestyle events .

With a very short turnaround  time he would make the journey from Europe to Asia where he would compete in the Summer Universiade (World University Games) August 19 to 30. With the effects of a long season he did not post best times but represented the nation proudly in the 100 and 200 metre butterfly races in Taipei at the Taiwan Sport University Arena.

Sion Brin 1997
Sion Brinn 1997 Photo courtesy of

His participation ended a 20 year absence of Jamaican representation in the pool at the World University Games. The last time Jamaica participated at the global championships was when  legendary Jamaican sprinter Sion Brinn had made the finals of the 50 and 100 metre freestyle . At that competition in August 1997 in Messina Italy  where  he recorded times of 23.22 and 50.77 respectively.

WUG contingent
Jamaica’s World University Games contingent from left to right Laurence Garriques, General secretary of the Jamaica Intercollegiate Sports Association and head of delegation, David Riley Head Coach,Tyquendo Tracey,Sashalee Forbes (2017 World University Champion 100 metres-Athletics) Gunning and Dawnalee Loney

In the 200 metre butterfly on August 22 Gunning swam 2:03.42 (split time 58.52) to finish 26th overall. Two days later in the 100 metre butterfly his effort of 55.92 (split time 26.29) placed him 53rd 6. When Draftingthecaribbean spoke to him about the Games  on August 24 he had the following thoughts

Michael Gunning 2017 World University Games
Michael Gunning at the 2017 World University Games

“ I always knew it was going to be tough preparing for two competitions back to back but I was up for the challenge and when I got back from the World Champs in Budapest I got back in the water for two weeks and tried to maintain fitness and sharpen up again.I didn’t quite deliver the performances I was hoping for this week but I’ve learnt a lot in the process and it’s been a great test event for the Commonwealth Games next year because it exposed me to the athletes village life and the factors I will have to face and be prepared for next year.It’s been great supporting my fellow 3 team members out here in Taipei and see Sashalee Forbes win gold in the 100 metres (athletics) so it’s definitely inspired me for next season”.

Analysis of Gunning’s national records and where they would have placed him at the 2014 CAC and Commonwealth Games

Event Time CAC 2014 Commonwealth Games 2014
400 metre freestyle 3:57.70 5th 18th
200 metre freestyle 1:50.00 Silver 12th
200 metre butterfly 1:59.83 Silver 12th

Michael will next be in action in October at the Manchester International which run from October 21 to 22 in the 100 and 200 metre butterfly, 200 and 400 metre freestyle and 400 metre individual events .


Notre Dame’s Jamaican senior Justin Plaschka officially opened his season with the Fighting Irish in the best possible way on Saturday October 7 at home. This as school  opened  the dual meet season with a win over number 7 ranked Louisville 153.5 to 146.5 and Justin  recorded the fastest time in the NCAA in the 50 yard freestyle.

Justin Plaschka ACC 2
Justin Plaschka Diving off the blocks

Justin outsprinted the field to get his hand first to the wall in the two lap race to record a time of 20.04.That is the top ranked time in college swimming tying with Paul Powers of the University of Michigan. Louisville’s Andrej Barna 20.17 was second and his teammate Daniel Speers was third in 20.39.

Plaschka, now a senior had his fastest ever season opening collegiate swim in the 50 yard freestyle

Analysis of 50 yard freestyle swims


Freshman 21.05
Sophomore 20.51
Junior 20.83
Senior 20.04

He would notch his individual second win in the dual meet when he took the 100 yard butterfly overtaking Louisville’s Zach Harting over the last 50 yards to take the top honours 47.91 to 48.04.Third went to Matt Grauslys in 49.04.Justin’s time places 5th overall in the NCAA.

In his final event the 400 yard freestyle relay the Irish lost a close decision Louisville 2:57.92 to 2:58.24.Justin had the second fastest split of the relay with a time of 44.00 on the second leg.

In the 200 yard medley relay his team was DQ’d.

Justin holds the school records in three individual events.He was also a  member of four record breaking relay teams .All the records were set last season

Event Time
50 yard freestyle 19.35
100 yard freestyle 42.78
100 yard butterfly 46.05
Justin Plaschka ACC 3
Notre Dame’s record breaking 400 yard freestyle relay team at the back from left to right Daniel Speers and Tabahn Afrik In front Justin Plaschka and Reed Fujan
Event Time
200 yard medley relay 1:24.88
400 yard medley relay 3:06.90
200 yard freestyle relay 1:16.97
400 yard freestyle relay 2:50.39

Notre Dame will next be in action on October Friday the 13 at home at the Rolfs Aquatic Center against Texas A&M and Michigan State.


Olympian Joanna Evans (Rio 2016) continued to make history for herself, The Bahamas and the CARIFTA and CCCAN regions with historic medal winning performances at the Summer Universiade in Taipei Taiwan this past August.

Before this year’s competition the last medal won in swimming from the CCCAN region had come from countryman Jeremy Knowles with his historic 200 metre butterfly Bronze medal winning performance in 1:59.21 at the 2003 Daegu South Korea Games .Jeremy was the first and only swimmer from the CARIFTA region to win medal at the Championships.

Evans with 800 metre freestyle medallists Bahamas Aquatics
800 metre freestyle medallists From left to right German Sarah Koehler Silver medallist,Italian Gold medallist Simona Quadarella and Bahamian Bronze medallist Joanna Evans

That all changed on August 25, 2017 at the Taiwan Sports University Arena when Evans touched the wall in a new National record of 8:31.18 to win the Bronze medal. That time lowered her previous record of 8:32.18 set at 2016 The Bahamas Nationals before her debut performance at the Rio Olympics. That medal win broke a 14 year medal drought for the CARIFTA and CCCAN regions. She also put more distance between herself and the other swimmers as she was already the fastest ever swimmer from a CARIFTA or CCCAN nation.

Analysis of Joanna’s top 800 metre freestyle swims

Date and venue First 200 Second 200 Third 200 Fourth 200 Final time
Atlanta May 2017 2:06.13 2:09.49 2:10.81 2:09.67 8:36.10
Nassau 2016 2:06.65 2:08.89 2:08.22 2:08.43 8:32.19
WUGs Aug 25 2:04.04 2:08.95 2:08.86 2:09.33 8:31.18

Gold went to Simona Quadarella of Italy in 8:20.54 and the Silver was won by Sarah Koehler of Germany in 8:21.67

Evans had given a hint before of what was to come when she lowered her national record in the 200 metre freestyle to 1:59.19 to make the Championship final. That record swim solidified her position as the fastest CARIFTA swimmer in the event as she had passed the previous CARIFTA best of 2:01.11 by Jamaican Olympian Janelle Atkinson (Sydney 2000, Athens 2004) at the Atlanta Pro Swim Series  meet on May 6. At that meet she had performances of 2:00.37 and 1:59.91. In the final on August 25 she placed 8th in a time of 2:00.70 less than 30 minutes after winning Bronze in the gruelling 800 metre freestyle.


Analysis of Joanna’s top 200 metre freestyle swims

Date and venue First 100 Second 100 Final time
Olympics  Aug 2016 59.23 1:02.04 2:01.27
Atlanta May 2017 59.22 1:01.15 2:00.37
Austin July 2017 58.89 1:01.02 1:59.91
WUGS Aug 24 2017 58.23 1:00.83 1:59.19
WUGs Aug 25 58.05 1:02.65 2:00.70
Joanna Evans Bronze medal nassau Guardian
B medallists in the 400 metre freestyle from left to right American Sierra Schmidt Bronze medallist, German Sarah Koehler Gold medallist and Bahamian Joanna Evans Silver medallist Photo courtesy of nassauguardian

A day later of August 26 she would go one better on the medal podium when she won the Silver medal in the 400 metre freestyle with a time of 4:08.52.Gold went to Sarah Koehler in 4:03.96 and the Bronze to America’s Sierra Schmidt in 4:09.82.

With that performance Joanna became the FIRST and ONLY CARIFTA swimmer male or female to win TWO medals at the Championships, the ONLY CARIFTA swimmer male or female to win a SILVER medal. In the CCCAN region she became the FIRST and ONLY CCCAN woman to win TWO medals at the Championship, and the ONLY CCCAN woman to win a SILVER medal at the Championships.


Bent and Falcon 100 metre backstroke medallists
Atlanta 1996 100 metre backstroke medallists from left to right Rodolfo A. Falcón Cabrera Silver medallist,American Jeff Rouse Gold medallist and Neisser S. Bent Vázquez Bronze medallist Photo courtesy of gettyimages

She has also tied the Cuban Olympic duo of Rodolfo A. Falcón Cabrera  (Barcelona 1992 ,Atlanta 1996 , Sydney 2000) and Neisser S. Bent Vázquez ( Atlanta 1996 , Sydney 2000) for Most Medals won at Two.

Rodolfo had won Gold in the 100 and 200 metre backstroke events in times of 55.60 and 1:59.90 at the 1993 Buffalo Games. Neisser won Gold and Silver in the same events at the 1997 Sicily Italy Games with performances of 55.82 and 2:00.37. Both would win Silver and Bronze respectively in the 100 metre backstroke at the 1996 Olympics

When Draftingthecaribbean spoke the region’s best distance freestyler she gave the following thoughts about her performances

“I was pleased with them. The times weren’t excellent but given the circumstances and line-up I was very happy”

The best in the region over the middle to long distance freestyle events also placed 23rd in the 100 metre freestyle 56.99 split time 27.87 just off her best time of 56.74. In her sights will be the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne where the best CARIFTA region performance in her signature events are two Bronze medals.

Janelle Atkinson and 800 metre freestyle Silver medallists 2002 gettyimages uk
2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games 800 metre freestyle medallists from left to right Australian Amanda Pascoe Bronze medallist, England’s Rebecca Cooke Gold medallist and Jamaican Bronze medallist Janelle Atkinson Photo courtesy of gettyimages

Those medals were won by Jamaican Janelle Atkinson at the 2002 Manchester Games in the 400 (4:13.24) and 800 metre (8:36.18) freestyle races.

It would be hard not to see her medalling in those events with her form that consistently improves each season.


Halfway through the 2017 FINA/airweave Swimming World Cup Jamaica’s World Record in the 50 scm breaststroke Alia Atkinson seems well on her way to complete the tour undefeated in that event.

Alia Hong Kong 2
Alia Atkinson at the Hong Kong FINA/airweave Swimming World Cup.Photo courtesy of

On Sunday October 1 Atkinson crushed the field by over a second to win the event in a time of 29.26. Second place went to Denmark’s Rikke Pedersen in 30.50 and the Bronze was won by Hong Kong’s Ip Rainbow in 32.50. The Gold medal winning performance marked her 4th consecutive win for the season and 16th straight on the tour. The last time Alia lost this race was Oct 29, 2015. On the 2016 tour Alia competed in 8 of the 9 stops and won all her races.

In 100 scm breaststroke her streak of victories now extends to five. Atkinson reigned supreme from the start with the quickest reaction and the fastest splits for both the first and second 50s.

Reaction time 0.65
First 50 30.14
Second 50 33.95
Final time 1:04.09

Left in her wake by over a second was the Dane Pedersen in 1:05.09 and Canadian Kierra Smith won the Bronze in 1:05.65.

In the longest breaststroke race, the 200scm Atkinson won the Bronze in a time of 2:26.70 (1:09.89).

In the 200 scm individual medley she out split the field on the breaststroke leg with a time of 35.88 to move from 8th to 5th .

Alia making a move on medley
Alia Atkinson making a surge for the the lead in the 200 scm individual medley Photo courtesy of

Alia would push to the wall to finish 4th in 2:12.34 her fastest time of the season.

Atkinson posted her 3rd fastest time of the season in the 100 scm medley when she finished 4th with a time of 59.57 (split time 28.17).


Olympian Janelle Atkinson (Sydney 2000, Athens 2004) and many time National coach and former Technical Director Jacky Beckford- Henriques will be in charge of collegiate swimming programmes in North America for the 2017-2018 season.

Janelle Atkinson photo courtesy of stonybrookathletics
Janelle Atkinson Head Coach women’s swimming & diving Stony Brook Seawolves Photo courtesy of

Atkinson will be the head women’s swimming & diving coach for the Stony Brook. Janelle had previous coaching stints at Fairfield where she was Head coach for three years, University of Connecticut and Wright State University. Atkinson still holds senior national records in the 200, 400, 800 and 1500 metre freestyle events as well as the 200 metre butterfly. In the 25 metre pool she holds the records in the 100,200,400 and 800 metre freestyle. When speaking to the Greene Gazette a production by students Gabrielle Topping and Joseph Topping participating in the Stony Brook University School of Journalism‘s Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists Janelle spoke about the valuable lesson she learnt as a competitor that she would like to impart to her squad “For me, one of the biggest things is, always trying to teach my athletes about regret, not having regret “You come to practice every day and you make a conscious effort to show up today, to walk on the pool deck, that means that you’re committed to giving your all at practice and that’s what I like to teach them”.

Jacky Waterloo Warrior
Jacky Beckford-Henriques Head coach of the Waterloo Warriors swim team Photo courtesy of

Jacky was previously at McMaster University. She spent 3 years at the Marauders as the Associate coach. Beckford-Henriques was the Jamaican National Coach for 19 years and was a member of the coaching staff for the three Olympic Games Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. Among her charges at the Warriors will be Trinidad and Tobago’s Jonathon Ramkissoon. On the Waterloo website Jacky spoke about how she felt about her appointment “It is a great honour to become the head coach of the Warriors, a very reputable and hard working group of swimmers I’ve got to know over my time at Mac. I’m excited to work with each student-athlete and gear up for a strong season in the pool”.

The duo feature among the list of Jamaicans in senior coaching positions in North America which include Olympians

Sion Brinn Indian riverstateathletics
Sion Brinn Photo courtesy of

Sion Brinn ( 1996 Atlanta) Head Coach of Indian River State College ( 5 years)

Dawn Kane Duke
Dawn Kane Photo courtesy of

and Dawn Kane ( Sydney 2000, Athens 2004) Associate Head Coach Duke University  (13 years)


On Saturday August 5 at the 2017 Futures Championships in Nashville Tennessee while representing the Pine Crest Swim Team Nicholas Vale became the fastest age group 400 metre freestyler Jamaica has ever produced when he clocked a time of 4:10.52.

D Walter  Cis courtesy of Tedra Bolger-Daoussis
Dominic Walter Photo courtesy of Tedra Bolger-Daoussis

That performance by Vale lowered the 15-17 boys’ record of 4:11.31 held by distance standout Dominic Walter when he competed at the 2010 CISC (Caribbean Islands Swimming Championships) in Cuba.

Nicholas lowered his personal best of 4:15.57 that doubles as the 13-14 national record that he set at the 2016 CISC in the Bahamas. He now holds five individual national records

Age Group Event Time
11-12 1500 metre freestyle 18:50.18
11-12 400 metre individual medley 5:13.78
13-14 400 metre freestyle 4:15.57
13-14 200 metre individual medley 2:16.17

Vale has been a regular fixture in the Jamaican swimming lineup since making his national debut at the 2013 CARIFTA Championships held in Kingston Jamaica.

Analysis of Vale’s 13-14 and 15-17 freestyle records

Meet Date First 100 metres Second 10 metres Third 100 metres Fourth 100 metres Final time
CISC July 4,2016 1:02.03 1:05.67 1:04.98 1:02.89 4:15.57
Futures Aug 5,2017 59.77 1:04.47 1:03.43 1:02.85 4:10.52
Nicholas Vale Pic by Mike C Lyn Futures 2017 Nashville
Nicholas Vale Photo courtesy of Michael C Lyn

At the same competition he registered the top times this season for the 15-17 Jamaican boys when he stopped the clock in 57.36 in the 100 metre butterfly and 2:13.03 in the 200 metre individual medley.

Vale relay takeover PC Mike Lyn Futures
Vale in relay action at Futures Photo courtesy of Michael C Lyn

In the relays Nicholas had two top 10 finishes with Pine Crest.

400 free relay PC N Vale
Sixth Placed Pine Crest 400 metre freestyle relay team From left to right Vale,Nico Ferrara Elvis Kotikovski and Aruban Daniel Jacobs Photo courtesy of Pine Crest Swimming

His 400 metre freestyle relay team placed 6th overall in 3:36.05  while the 400 metre medley team was 5th in 3:57.65

400 medley relay PC 5th N Vale
Fifth placed Pine Crest 400 metre medley relay from left to right Kotikovski,Ferrara,Jacob Silberman and Vale Photo courtesy of Pine Crest Swimming

When draftingthecaribbean spoke to Nicholas he spoke about his achievement

“I actually didn’t know what the 15-17 400 free Jamaican National record was prior to the race. I found out afterwards that I had broken it by a second. I was very pleased with the swim considering that I still have two years left in the 15-17 age group to lower that 400 free record and hopefully break many more.

During the race I felt very controlled and smooth. My goal going into the race was to keep my splits as close as possible and I was successful in doing so. I was very pleased to have finally dropped my time of 4:15.57 from a year ago at the 2016 CISC Championships. I believe that all of my technique work along with the grueling distance sets have attributed to my success in this event. After this swim I plan on doing a lot more 400 specific pace”.