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 500 yard freestyle Champion Photo courtesy of goeclions

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 and teammate Joao Santos who also made history by getting a Silver in the 100 yard breaststroke Photo courtesy of goeclions
First 100 48.40
Second 10052.47
Third 100 52.57
Fourth 10053.10
Fifth 10054.55
Total Time4:21.09

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.

Nico Campbell Photo courtesy of
FirstMatthew Holmes1:36.16
SecondMatias Lopez1:38.05
ThirdCharlesenry Gotsch1:38.92
AnchorNico Cambell1:36.51

Campbell had the fifth fastest leg of all the competing 18 teams. It was also the fastest time Nico had ever produced at Nationals.

Nico Campbell in competition earlier in the season Photo courtesy of
Team time6:29.64 6:33.85

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.

First legGiulio Brugnoni20.0719.83
Second legAlex Zolotuhkin19.7819.84
Third legMattia Schirru19.5519.77
Fourth legKohen Kerr19.9619.67
Total time1:19.361:19.11

Draftingthecaribbean spoke to Kerr this morning about his team’s record breaking feats

Kohen Kerr Photo courtesy of

” 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.

Alex Sobers receiving award for Silver medal performance Photo courtesy of
First 50 22.4021.78
Second 50 24.0123.76
Third 50 24.6224.23
Fourth 5024.2924.99
Total time1:35.321:34.76
Alex and Coach Allen Gilchrest Photo courtesy of

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

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.

Nico Campbell Photo courtesy of

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.

Jordan Augier Photo courtesy of

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.

Kael Yorke
BackstrokeRodrigo Codo Berti22.19
BreaststrokeJan Zuchowicz23.95
ButterflyKael Yorke21.53
FreestyleVictor Antonon19.98
Total Time1:27.65

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

Emmanuel College record setting relay team from left to right Mendes.Sobers,Santos and Rosa Photo courtesy of
BackstrokeThiago Rosa22.25
BreaststrokeJoao Santos24.07
ButterflyRafael Mendes21.73
FreestyleAlex Sobers20.19
Total Time1:28.24

They bettered the record they set in a time trial at the 2019 Bluegrass Mountain / Carolinas Conference Championships .

Nico Campbell Photo courtesy of

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


Jamaica’s Nico Campbell continues to improve and this was evident in his final Sunshine State Conference Championships for Florida Southern College where he set all new personal bests and won Gold and Silver in the 800 yard freestyle relay and 200 yard freestyle respectively.

In the 200 yard freestyle Nico stands tall as the fastest Jamaican ever in the 200 yard freestyle. As a former national record holder in the 200 metre freestyle in both the 50 metre and 25 metre pools it was almost expected. In his first Conference Championships in 2016 he moved to second all time when he swam 1:39.21 in the heats of the event.At his second Conference Championships in 2017 he moved past Olympian Sion Brinn with his relay swim of 1:38.20. By 2018 he became the first Jamaican under 1:38 to win Gold at the 2018 Conference Championships with a time of 1:37.28.

200 yard freestyle podium from left to right Luka Planinc Bronze, Cam Newton Gold, Nico Silver

In Clearwater where the Championships were held from February 21 to 24 he bettered that time in the Championship final to win Silver in a time of 1:37.23 (split time 48.11). Nico ended his career winning Three medals in the event One Gold , Two Silver and a Seventh Place finish in his freshman year.

Sion Brinn 1997 Photo courtesy of
Year Medal Time
Relay Gold medallist from left to right Campbell, Planinc,Holmes and Gotsch Photo courtesy of

In the 800 freestyle relay the Exercise Science major earned his first Gold medal in the event. As one of the team captains he lead by example to help Florida Southern by lowering his PB and Jamaican best time to 1:36.89. That gave his team a one second lead which they would not relinquish. They would go on to crush the competition by more than five seconds to take the win in a new Conference record time of 6:30.02. That bettered the old record of 6:30.97 held by the 2017 Nova South Eastern University team. His lead off leg makes him the only Jamaican ever under 1:37 seconds and the fifth swimmer from Florida Southern under that mark. With the win Campbell has a complete set of medals in the event Gold (2019),Silver (20180 and Bronze (2016)

First legNico Campbell1:36.89 PB
Second LegLuka Planinc1:37.88
Third LegCharles-Henry Gotsch1:38.89
Fourth legMatt Holmes1:36.36
Total time6:30.02 Gold

There would be another medal for Campbell in the 400 yard freestyle relay. He gave the team a lead with a split of 44.33 (split time 21.30). At the end it was Tampa that took Gold in a very tight finish for the medals with a time of 2:58.07 . Florida Southern won the Silver in 2:58.15 and the Bronze went to Nova in 2:58.59. That time moves him to sixth all time in school history.He also moves up to number three on the all time Jamaican rankings in the event.

1Justin Plaschka42.782017Notre DameI
2Sion Brinn43.831995LSUI
3Nico Campbell44.332019Florida Southern CollegeII
4Jason Adams44.342014Dickinson collegeIII
5Brad Hamilton44.402009University of North CarolinaI
6Joseph Black44.452019KenyonIII
7Timothy Wynter45.242016USCI
8Keanan Dols45.682017UPENNI
9Chris Gayle46.661992Howard UniversityI

In the individual 100 yard freestyle Nico finished a career best fourth in a time of 44.57 (split time 21.16).In the 50 yard freestyle he had another career best placing of third in the B final of 20.43. That new 50 yard freestyle time carries him closer to the fourth fastest time ever by a Jamaican of 20.09 by Brad Hamilton.

Brad Hamilton Photo courtesy of
1Plaschka19.302018Notre DameI
2Adams19.802014Dickinson collegeIII
4Hamilton20.092009University of North CarolinaI
5Campbell20.492018Florida Southern CollegeII

In the 200 yard medley Florida Southern College finished fourth in a time of 1:29.26 .Nico split 20.27 on the anchor freestyle leg. When draftingthecaribbean spoke to Jamaica’s best 200 yard freestyler he gave his impression of the Conference Championships and his outlook for the Division II Championships

Nico preparing for the relay and yet another Jamaican best time

“Leading into Conference I knew that I was more than likely going to be making NCAA’s so I did not fully taper for it but I did bring all my times down drastically.Based on my mid season performance I knew the 200 yard freestyle qualification was secure. Thought not fully tapered I had some rest and was prepared for the meet. As usual Conference was one of the most high energy meets I have been to.It is great to have all your teammates with you on deck, cheering for you and getting you ready for your races.As I am a captain of the team I made sure my role was to help the freshmen acclimatize to the kind of environment Conference .I also made sure I stepped up to score points for the team.Overall I am very happy with my performances at the meet.I went best times in every event and picked up medals and scored points along the way. In the 200 yard freestyle I finished second and I went basically right on my best time.I was happy with the placing and I was happy with the time but I knew I wanted to be slightly faster.So the day after I led off the 800 yard freestyle relay and I went a 1:36 which was my best time and is the fastest ever time recorded by a Jamaican. Both My times in the 100 and 200 freestyle put me in the top 23 in the nation which meant that I will swim those events as well as the 50 yard freestyle and relays also.So now I am just coming back off the slight taper for conference so now I am looking to fully preparing for nationals which will be the last collegiate meet of my career.As as team we had a certain goal going into conference which unfortunately we did not achieve. We ended up finishing third but we were not disappointed with that because for the most part people scored points, or hit season bests or PB”s”.

Nico will compete in the NCAA Division II championships from March 13 to 16 at the IU Natatorium on the campus of  Indian Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis


Jamaica’s Nicholas Vale signaled his intentions to qualify for this year’s CARIFTA Championships in Barbados with personal bests at the 2019 Long Course Sectional Qualifier in Plantation,Florida held from Feb 8 to 9.

Vale, representing the Pine Crest swim club topped the 200 metre freestyle field with a new personal best time of 1:57.03. Nicholas was the best of the 63 strong field. He will be aiming to be on the medal podium in Barbados as he is atop the Jamaican rankings for 15-17 boys in the event . In the last two editions of the Championships Nicholas placed 5th with times of 1:57.46 and 1:58.32. Setting a personal best ahead of the Championships puts him in good stead to make that a medal a reality.

Nico Campbell at CARIFTA Photo courtesy of Michael C Lyn

The last time Jamaica was on the boys 15-17 200 freestyle medal podium was 2015 in Barbados when Nico Campbell recorded 1:54.62 for the Silver medal. That Championship was in Barbados and Campbell’s time is also the fastest time ever done by a Jamaican in the event at CARIFTA.

Comparison of personal best times

200 freestyle20182019
First 5027.0228.23
Second 5030.2630.17
Third 50 30.5529.03
Fourth 5029.6329.60
Final time1:57.461:57.03

Vale also lowered his personal best from the 2018 CARIFTA Kingston Championships in the 200 metre backstroke from 2:17.46 (split time 1:05.83) to 2:16.07 (split time 1:06.32) to place fourth. Looking at how Nicholas is pacing his races it can be seen that he is developing his back end speed. That was evidenced by his 400 metre freestyle when he negative split the race 2:10.10 and 2:07.88 to have a total time of 4:17.98 to place third overall.

In his other races he placed fifth in the 50 metre butterfly in 25.95 and the 100 metre freestyle saw him fifth again in 54.10 (split time 26.24) , just missing out on his personal best of 53.87

When draftingthecaribbean spoke to Vale on February 16 he gave his thoughts on his performances

“I am really happy with my performances at the Sectional qualifier especially the 200 metre freestyle and 200 metre backstroke.They were both best times .I was really happy with the 200 metre freestyle because I had not dropped that time in a while. I know I can go faster in the 200 metre backstroke.I feel really good going into CARIFTA. I have some really big goals I hope to break the the CARIFTA record (54.87 set by Suriname’s Zuhayr Pigot in 2014)”.

Zuhayr Pigot Photo courtesy of Times of Suriname

In 2018 Vale had won the Silver medal in the 100 metre butterfly in a time of 56.29. The fastest ever time recorded by a Jamaican at CARIFTA

Nicholas Vale Silver medallist Photo courtesy of Mike C Lyn

The pool swimming segment of the CARIFTA Championships will be held from April 19 to 23.Championships is an approved qualifying meet for the 18th FINA World Championships 2019 – Gwangju, Korea, the Pan American Games 2019 – Lima, Peru and the XXXII Olympiad 2020 – Tokyo, Japan


Florida Southern College’s Jamaican Junior Nico Campbell continues to show progress in his swimming career by winning two relay medals so far at the NCAA Division II championships underway at the  Greensboro Aquatic Center in North Carolina. The meet which started on Wed March 14 saw him bettering his 2017 performances.

Nico Campbell
Nico Campbell Photo courtesy of

In the 800 yard freestyle relay, which was swum yesterday, saw The Moccasins’ team of Matthew Holmes 1:36.75,Campbell 1:37.37,Luka Matacin 1:38.65 and Luka Planinc 1:36.92 stopped the clock in 6:29.69 to win the Silver .This is a big movement from 2017 when the team finished seventh in 6:33.85.Nico’s split then was 1:38.78.Queens won the event in 6:25.42

In the 200 yard freestyle relay on Thursday Florida Southern earned their second consecutive Silver medal in the event.The team of Noah Franz 20.46,Campbell 19.92,Matacin 19.77 and Talor Hamilton 20.05 stopping the clock in 1:20.20.In 2017 Nico was timed in 20.19. The Gold went to Oklahoma Baptist in 1:18.11 . The second leg swimmer on that team was Chad Brandon whose parents are Jamaican.

Nico Campbell SSCC
Nico Campbell

In the 200 yard freestyle he would better his 2017 showing of 1:38.39 twice. In the heats when he swam 1:38.09 (split time 47.60) and when he registered 1:38.13 when he placed fourth in the B final.

Campbell’s 200 yard medley relay team placed second in the B final with a time of 1:28.17.Nico contributed an anchor leg of 20.13.



Nico wins
Nico celebrates Conference title Photo courtesy of Sunshine State Conference

Florida Southern College’s Jamaican Junior Nico Campbell captured his first Conference title when he stormed to victory in the 200 yard freestyle on Friday Feb 23 at the 2018 Sunshine State Conference Championships.

Nico celebrates
Nico the best in the Sunshine State Conference Photo courtesy of Sunshine State Conference

Nico, who has been in great form since the 2017 Long course season where he recorded several bests carried that over into the yards portion of the season. In the morning heats he showed his intent when he recorded a season and personal best time of 1:37.49 (split time 47.45) to claim the number one seed heading into the final. In the final the Jamaican trailed in third place at the century mark with a time of 47.20.He would have more in legs than the field and came roaring back to win in another personal best of 1:37.28.For Nico this is a step up the podium as he finished with the Silver in 2017 in a time of 1:38.23.

The Road to Conference Gold

Year Time split Place
2018 1:37.28 47.20 Gold
2017 1:38.23 48.52 Silver
2016 1:39.21 48.04 7th

Nico Carifta
Nico Campbell at CARIFTA Photo courtesy of Michael C Lyn

It was no surprise to anyone following Nico’s career that his first Conference title would be in the 200 yard freestyle as he is a former Jamaican senior national record holder in the 200 metre freestyle in the short course and long course metre versions of the event.At the CARIFTA level he is remembered for his anchor leg in the 15-17 800 metre freestyle relay that brought the island its first Gold medal in that event for that age group in 2014. He would replicate that exciting performance in 2015. He still holds the 15-17 age group record 1:53.95 as well as the fastest Jamaican performance of all time performance at CARIFTA 1:54.62.

200 yard medley relay podium
200 yard medley relay podium Photo courtesy of Sunshine state Conference

That would not be the only Gold medal won by Campbell as his Florida Southern team won the 200 yard medley relay. The quartet of Brandon Dyck backstroke 22.23,Luis Jasso breaststroke 24.48, Noah Franz 21.04 and Campbell 20.07 won Gold in a new Championship record time of 1:27.82.That bettered the 2017 mark of 1:28.01 set by Nova Southeastern University.Silver went to Nova in 1:28.07 and the Bronze to Florida Tech in 1:28 .57 which had Grenadian Corey Ollivierre doing breaststroke duties

The 50 yard freestyle saw Nico setting a new personal best of 20.49 to place 4th in the B final.His 200 yard freestyle relay team placed fourth in 1:20.93. Campbell provided a third leg of 19.93

The meet would be a short one as injury struck. Campbell would speak to draftingthecaribbean about the meet on Feb 25 about the Conference Champs and the outlook for the NCAA Division II finals to be held in  Greensboro, North Carolina at the Greensboro Aquatic Center, March 14-17

“My 50 free on the first day was not as fast as I wanted but I anchored the 200 medley relay to gold, so that was a really great achievement. I knew my main focus was on the 200 freestyle and that was the event in which I was most likely going to make NCAAs. In the prelims I set a best time, booked my ticket to NCAAs and I was top seed for the final. Being as the morning went well and I had qualified for NCAAs, the final was all about having fun with the race and trying to get gold, to score maximum points for my team, which I did. I’m honored to say that I’m the Sunshine State Conference 200 freestyle champion. However, on day 3 I did not have a swim. I was counting for a teammate in the 500 and I had a back spasm being that I was unable to complete the rest of the meet. I was disappointed, upset and annoyed knowing that I would have to be spectating the rest of the meet. But now the focus is on getting a quick recovery and looking forward to heading to Greensboro, North Carolina for the NCAA’s”

Florida Southern Men placed second overall with 802 points. Nova won with 876