Meet serves as an early qualifier for the Paris Olympic Games
The Bahamas Aquatics Federation is set to host its 51st national championships at the Betty Kelly-Kenning National Swim Complex. It gets underway on June 15 and wraps up on Father’s Day, June 18.
President of the federation Algernon Cargill said he expects high quality swims from Bahamian and international swimmers. The boys and girls age groups that will be participating are 8-and-under, 9-10, 11-12, 13-14, 15-17 and 18-and-over.
“This nationals is very important to the federation because it is a qualifier for Paris 2024 Olympic Games and we will see approximately 50 international swimmers coming to The Bahamas to participate in the championships,” Cargill said. “We will see our own international swimmers who will be competing at home and they’ll be excited to swim at home. We are very grateful for Corporate Bahamas for stepping forward to fund these championships.”
Bahamian swimmers such as Olympian Izaak Bastian, Lamar Taylor, DaVante Carey and Lilly Higgs will come home to compete for their respective clubs as well as attain cuts for various meets. Swimmers from Bermuda, the Dominican Republic and the United States of America (USA) will be looking to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics Games. The international swimmers will be competing for time and not points or medals.
Taylor holds the national record in several swim events and recently was named the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II Swimmer of the Year. He won three individual NCAA DII championship titles. Carey, Bastian and Higgs are all national record holders. Bahamian swimmers who want to compete on national teams must participate at the nationals unless they are exempted.
The meet is club oriented in that a club is crowned the overall champion. The defending champion is Mako Aquatics Club and they will be looking to win their fifth straight title like The Bahamas’ CARIFTA swim team did earlier in the year.
“It is an outstanding accomplishment to win four straight titles. We operate in a very competitive arena in the swimming community, and we have had a lot of dynamics change in the swimming communities here with clubs combining. Mako has gotten even stronger as well as Alpha because they combined with a part of the YMCA WaveRunners club in Freeport. YMCA was second overall to Mako last year, so Alpha would emerge very strong in these national championships. The Barracudas will pose a significant threat also to Mako’s attempt at a five peat,” Cargill said.
Apart from being an Olympic qualifier, the meet serves as an early qualifier for the CARIFTA Games. The junior swimmers try to achieve the qualifying standards. The Bahamas hosts the championships in 2024.
“We know that all the younger kids are trying to get their CARIFTA qualifying times early, and it is one of the reasons why we do so well at CARIFTA. We’re excited about that and that’s why all of the swimmers are competing,” Cargill said.
After the CARIFTA Swimming Championships in April, a club meet had to be cancelled because the pool was not up and running. Swimmers are currently practicing at the pool and Cargill said that the pool is expected to be functional from now until it closes for maintenance after the Bahamas Games in July.
“The National Sports Authority (NSA) has been working very closely with the federation to ensure that proper maintenance is provided but our biggest challenge would be during these hot summer months to keep that water temperature cool. The automatic chillers that are installed are no longer functional. We’re happy that we partnered with the NSA. We’re having weekly meetings to discuss some of the challenges, and we expect to have the pool working. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that everything goes well,” Cargill said.
The support from the crowd plays a huge role in the performance of the swimmers, said Cargill. They will support their favorite club and reunite for CARIFTA swimming as they cheer for The Bahamas. Cargill described the swimming community as being one of the best supporters of local sports and he expects the crowd to be loud as usual.