Amateur swimmers representing the Cayman Islands are returning home with 56 medals after competing at the 34th CARIFTA Championships held 12-24 April in Barbados. With artistic swimmers opening the competition with seven medals 12-14 April, competitive pool and open water swimmers followed with 49 medals over five days of competition 20-24 April.
In the pool, Cayman was led by a number of swimmers including Camana Bay Aquatic Club’s Avery Lambert. The 15-year old, who attends Bolles School in Jacksonville, Fla., won eight medals overall including gold in both the Girls 13-14 Open Water 5K swim and the 400-metre individual medley. Lambert, along with Raya Embury-Brown, Kyra Rabess and Stephanie Royston clocked a CARIFTA record of 8:59.00 in 4×200-metre relay. Lambert also took silver in both the 800-and 400-metre freestyle.
“It was an unforgettable time,” said Lambert. “It took all of us to contribute to break the record. Our coaches put together a very strong team that represented the Cayman Islands very well.”
Brown, 14, took home seven medals including gold in both the Girls 13-14 400-and 800-metre freestyle, while scoring bronze in both the 200-metre freestyle and the Open Water swim. On top of winning gold in the record breaking 4x200m relay, the Stingray standout added a second relay gold in the 4x100m relay, with a bronze in the 4x50m relay.
“I hadn’t swam long course in about a year,” said Brown. “In the 400-metres, I was top seed going in and I was ready for a chase. I didn’t have the lead in the last 50, but I started sprinting and got the lead for the win. It felt pretty crazy. I didn’t know I had it in me.”
For Girls 11-12, Camana Bay Aquatic Club’s Lila Higgo debuted with a tie for High Points honours after winning gold in the 200-metre individual medley. The 11-year old also snagged silver in the 50-metre breast, 50-metre back and 100-metre back, while winning bronze alongside Sofia Bonati, Kaitlyn Sullivan and Harper Barrowman in the 4×100-metre relay.
“I feel very proud and excited that I did so well,” said Higgo. “I just wanted to swim as hard as I could, and I really liked the 200 IM.”
Barrowman, 13, also had a strong debut in the regional championships, winning gold in both the 200-and 400-metre freestyles. The Seven Mile Swimmer also won silver in both the 100-metre freestyle and 400-metre individual medley, as well as bronze in the 100-metre fly.
“I feel very proud about my races, but equally as proud of everyone else,” said Barrowman. “We all had each other’s backs throughout the whole meet and we were all very supportive. The 400 free was my favorite race by far. I felt like I was flying through the water. Every time I took a breathe, I could see the whole team cheering me on, and that felt amazing.”
For Boys 15-17, Jordan Crooks led the way with seven medals including gold in the 200-metre freestyle. The 16-year old added silver in both the 50-and 100-metre freestyles with bronze in both the 50-metre back and 200-metre fly. The CBAC star also won silver in both the 4×100-metre and 4×200-metre relays alongside Jake Bailey, Liam Henry and Zachary Moore.
“I feel very satisfied, it’s been a long time coming,” said Crooks. “I’ve never medaled at CARIFTA before, this is my first time. It’s my 6th year, I have one more year and I hope I do better in the next one.”
Bailey, 16, won gold in the Boys 15-17 Open Water 5K, as well as silver in both the 1500-metre freestyle and 200-metre fly. He added a bronze in the 400-metre individual medley.
“Most of my swims felt pretty nice,” said Bailey. “I managed to keep my pace on most of them. I got tired as the days went on, like in the 400-metres, but I managed to perform really well in the 5K.”
Cayman finished with 11 gold, 19 silver and 14 bronze for a total of 44 medals in competitive pool swimming alone, good for fourth overall. It’s the third highest medal haul in the programme’s history for pool events, trailing only Cayman’s 2017 team who won 47 in Bahamas, and former coach Dave Kelsheimer’s team who won 46 in 2004.
Since the inception of 5K Open Water swimming at the CARIFTA Championships in 2013, this year’s team ranks second all-time with 49 medals, behind just the 2017 team who won 50. This does not include artistic swimming, which the Cayman Islands began competing in just one year ago.
Open water swimmers won 3 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze, while artistic swimmers won 4 gold 1 silver and 2 bronze.
Overall, Cayman earned 18 gold, 21 silver and 17 bronze medals for the entire 34th CARIFTA Swimming Championships.