One of the CARIFTA region’s stars whose has been using the momentum of a great long course season to do well on the college level is Jared Fitzgerald of The Bahamas . He is known as Flying Fitzgerald after his national record breaking exploit in the 100 metre freestyle. He set the national record at the 2019 PAN AM Games in a time of 50.81.
Jared who represents the Tampa University Spartans was fantastic form at at the Sunshine State Conference Championships which was held from Feb 13 to 16 at the Clearwater Aquatic Center in Florida.
In his first event the 50 yard freestyle he made the championship final and recorded a personal best for fifth in 20.46.
The next day is when Jared took off with his medal account taking Gold in the 200 yard freestyle relay.The quartet of Luke Hene 20.26, Yannick Smith 20.13, Fitzgerald 19.85 and Aaron James 19.64 took the title in 1:19.88.They ran down the Nova Southern University who clocked 1:20.00.St Leo won Bronze in a time of 1:21.56.
The CARIFTA region has its imprint on the overall conference record and Championship records at St Lucian Jordan Augier was a member of the 2016 Spartan teams that set the standards of 1:19.09 and 1:17.27.
In the 200 yard freestyle Jared who was already the fastest Bahamian of all time in the event consolidated his position as the best ever.The third 50 yards was were Fitzgerald showed his class. His split of 24.71 broke the field.When he made that move there was no response from the field and he would take the Gold in a time of 1:37.05, winning by over a second. Silver and Bronze were won by the NSU Shark teammates Vincent Lijoi and Alex Dawson in times of 1:38.00 and 1:38.34.
This a move up for the podium for the CARIFTA region after Jamaican Nico Campbell won the Silver in 2019 for the Florida Southern College in 1:37.23
The longest relay the 800 yard freestyle relay saw the Spartans calling on the warrior spirit of Fitzgerald. Given the responsibility of anchor duties Fitzgerald was behind the leaders NSU sharks by over a second . Jared bided his time and cut the deficit to .06. He went to his big kick and ensured the Crown with a split of 25.93. That secured the Gold in a time of 6:31.72. The NSU Sharks won Silver in 6:33.18 and Saint Leo the Bronze in 6:37.04. The Spartans also lowered the school standard of 6:33.09 set in 2019.
The Conference record has roots in the CARIFTA region as Campbell’s team had set the Championship record last year in 209 at 6:30.02
In the 100 yard freestyle Jared buoyed by his great performances in the meet and with the confidence of being the national record holder for The Bahamas in the Olympic pool took the Sunshine State title easily.The victory was never in doubt as he lead from the starter’s gun to the final. He raised his hands as Champion with a new personal best time of 43.93. Only Olympian Chris Murray with his blast of 43.83 from the 2001 SEC Conference Championships while representing the Georgia Bulldogs
Draftingthecaribbean spoke to the Fitzgerald last month and got his thoughts about his performances. We asked him first about his mindset heading to the Conference Champs
“Training heading into conference champs was very tough because the men’s team knew we had a chance to do something special .We wanted win for the first time in Tampa’s history so everyone had tunnel vision”.
He also spoke about his strategy in the 200 yard freestyle
“For the 200 attacking the third 50 was apart of my plan and something
I have been working on a lot more this year. I was very happy to seeit pay off”.
He told us about the 100 yard freestyle where he had another personal best in taking the Crown and how confident he has been in this event been since setting the national 100 metre record
“My confidence in the 100 yards is getting better and better. Honestly I don’t think I have hit my full potential in it especially after seeing what I can do long course”.
He also told us how he felt heading to the NCAA Division II championships
“Honestly really excited, looking forward to racing some competition & seeing some friends. Especially excited to race like Alex Sobers again, just like the CARIFTA days”.
The Spartans won the men’s Championships with a total of 952 points.Second went to the NSU Sharks with 809 points and Florida Southern third with 548 points.
The NCAA Division II championships gets underway and will feature stars from the CARIFTA region to include defending 500 yard freestyle Champion Alex Sobers of Barbados representing Emmanuel College, the Terrific two from Team TTO Jeron Thompson and Kael Yorke representing the University of Indianapolis,Fitzgerald’s countryman DaVante Carey from The Bahamas representing McKendree.