Senior swimmers dominate CARIFTA’s most gruelling races

SMS Admin

By Dana Kampa

The Cayman Islands anthem rang out back to back at the Betty Kelly-Kenning Aquatic Center in the Bahamas Sunday, celebrating first-place finishes by Sierrah Broadbelt, 15, and Will Sellars, 17, in the CARIFTA Aquatics Championship women’s and men’s 15-17 400-metre individual medley.

“We’ve been on the podium a lot today,” Cayman Islands Aquatic Sports Association President Steve Broadbelt told the Compass Sunday.

This individual medley is one of the most gruelling in the tournament, as competitors must swim the lengthy race with impeccable technique in the butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle, all on their own. Sierrah Broadbelt and Sellars took home their medals, as did many of their teammates on Sunday.

All for one, one for all

The Cayman Islands team put up a strong performance on day one, and it managed to retain the second spot for overall team rankings at the end of day two.

The Bahamas, host of this year’s competition, leapt ahead with a total 525.5 points on Sunday, while the Cayman Islands totalled 341. Trinidad and Tobago was not far behind with 317 points, even briefly overtaking the Cayman Islands midday before returning to third place.

It was challenging for some of the team’s younger members to qualify for the Sunday evening finals, made even more difficult by cold temperatures at the open-air pool in the morning and fatigue from a long first day of the competition.

Even so, the Cayman Islands aquatics team brought its medal count up to 26: nine gold, seven silver, and 10 bronze.

Going for gold

Harper Barrowman, 17, and James Allison, 17, won gold in the women’s and men’s 200-metre freestyle races for their age group. In the 13-14 age group, Riley Watson also took gold in the women’s 100-metre backstroke.

Cheering from the audience was deafening as teams for the final race of the evening, the 15-17 men’s 400-metre medley relay, approached the starting blocks.

The Caymanian quartet pulled off a remarkable win. Though Trinidad and Tobago took an early lead, the Cayman Islands managed to overtake and finish with a time of 3:55:96.

Categorising it as a “perfect race,” Steve Broadbelt said a lot of consideration went into the lineup. Sellars tackled the backstroke, Jordan Lisle swam the breaststroke, Danny Kish swam the butterfly, and Allison finished with the freestyle.

Broadbelt thanked in-person fans for their boisterous support during this final race at the end of a long day.

“It gives the swimmers a real push to swim faster,” he said.

Staying strong

It is a difficult balancing act to conserve energy for a breakout performance in one race while participating in a wide variety of races in the interest of putting points toward the overall team score. Broadbelt explained that their strategy mostly comes down to each swimmer’s preference.

“For example, Jillian [Crooks] is preparing for the Olympics, so she needs to focus on her particular events for that,” he said, noting that several athletes are hoping to set solid times considering CARIFTA is an Olympic qualifying event.

He added, “Some swimmers might be more flexible, and they can take on more races.”

Crooks, who performed admirably in the first day with her record-breaking 100-metre butterfly, won silver on Sunday in the women’s 15-17 100-metre backstroke.