Seven Mile Swimmers are about to get a bigger seat at the table.
As seven of 25 amateur stars are set to make their CARIFTA debut this weekend, SMS will send a club-high five swimmers to the championships including four CARIFTA newcomers in the 11-12 age group. Head Coach Darren Mew credits a focus on grassroots in the club’s early beginnings born out of both design, and necessity.
“I believe we had a ton of success where I grew up from technique first approach,” said Mew. “We didn’t have the pool time, and we’ve done the same here.”
In it’s early years, the club trained in the former Treasure Island facility as a profit business. Without consistent pool time and limited space, Mew channeled his own experience growing up in the Isle of Wight and installed a focus on fundamentals.
“Technique first, then speed. Fitness and endurance come afterwards,” said Mew. “If you do it that way, you’re going to keep swimmers in the sport a lot longer, and they’re going to enjoy it a lot more. It’s a lot more fun to coach.”
Mew says the club also opted to build the team around younger swimmers. A nucleus who are now paying it forward to the next generation of teammates coming up through the system.
“When we set the team up we had interest from all swimmers, but said no because we want to start from the bottom up,” said Mew. “This 11, 12, 13-year age group coming through now are the ones that have been with us since the beginning. It’s nice to see them develop into senior swimmers and mentor the younger swimmers.”
A move to a non-profit entity quickly solved the team’s growing demand for pool time, giving them access to George Town’s Lions Pool. Fast-forward to 2019, and a matured group of ‘SMS originals’ were ready to make their mark.
“This year has been the hardest I’ve ever worked the senior group and the older swimmers,” said Mew. “They’re still learning all the time. Their fun to train, and they push themselves.”
The first SMS swimmer to make his mark this season was 12-year old Will Sellars. The Cayman Prep star smashed Olympian Geoff Butler’s CIASA record in the Boys 11-12 800-metre freestyle record in the first meet of the season, and hasn’t looked back.
“The harder you train the faster you go in a race because you will be more used to hurting during the race,” said Sellars.
In March, 13-year old Harper Barrowman thrilled spectators in a four-day stroke-for-stroke battle against Camana Bay Aquatic Club standout Jillian Crooks at this year’s National Championships. With Crooks’ unfortunate injury keeping her out of CARIFTA, the SMS original is now slated for a Cayman Islands high nine events in her CARIFTA debut.
“Making CARIFTA itself is a goal I am really excited about,” said Barrowman. “It feels cool to see what we started, what we’ve built ourselves into, and to now watch it grow.”
As SMS’s lone CARIFTA medalist, 14-year old Sophie Ackerley says there is a noticeable change in the team’s demeanor this season.
“I think people are more determined than ever,” said Ackerley. “They are working harder to go faster, and our coach is helping us to that.”
Mew says it’s just the beginning of what he projects as a bright future for Cayman’s smallest swimming club.
“The kids totally deserve it,” said Mew. “It’s a stepping stone for the next big thing like CCCAN, Island Games or down the line Commonwealth Games or Olympics.”
SMS’s CARIFTA swimmers are Will Sellars, Harper Barrowman, Sophie Ackerley, Grace Beighton and Kaitlyn Sullivan.