At the 2023 Milo Butler Invitational, there were swimmers going under CARIFTA qualifying times as well as previous qualifiers improving their times. The meet took place this past weekend at the Betty Kelly-Kenning National Aquatics Center.
The meet, which was hosted by the Blue Waves Aquatics Club, was the final competitive event before the highly anticipated Bahamas Aquatics Federation’s CARIFTA Trials set for this coming weekend.
Head Coach of the Blue Waves Dellan Brown said the event came off well.
“We wanted to create a nationals experience inside a meet outside of nationals,” said Brown. “As you can see from the setup, that is the concept we tried to push. We wanted to give the swimmers more time to recover. The results were good with the swimmers going faster, and that is for all the clubs.”
The Barracuda Swim Club’s Saleste Gibson has been swimming at a high level all season, and this past weekend was no different as she was able to improve on her times in some of the events. She won the high point trophy for the 11-12 girls division, finishing with 63 points.
Gibson won the 200 meters (m) butterfly with an improved CARIFTA qualifying time of 2:51.25, swimming almost four seconds faster than the 2:55.18 she posted earlier. Finishing second behind her and going under the CARIFTA standard for the first time in that event was Alpha Aquatics’ Skyler Smith with a time of 2:54.74.
“I was able to drop times and I was right on my times in other events,” Gibson said. “It was good to drop those times heading to CARIFTA Trials. I am going to try my best there and improve as many times as I could.”
Gibson was not able to lower her time in the 100m free but she won that event with a CARIFTA qualifying time of 1:04.21. Mako Aquatics Club’s DNDN McKenzie achieved her first CARIFTA standard after recording a time of 1:06.32 to place second. Gibson’s teammate Christin-Alyssa Clarke swam a personal best of 1:07.74 to secure the bronze medal.
Looking to show her versatility in the pool, Gibson shaved just over two seconds off her previous CARIFTA qualifying time in the 400m free, clocking 5:07.73 to win that race. She set a tough mark for Smith who was her closest competitor. Smith managed to go below the CARIFTA qualifying time in that event for the first time when she swam 5:10.45. Mako’s Nai’a Belton dropped 19 seconds off her personal best, placing third in 5:34.10.
Smith has been close to achieving the CARIFTA qualifying time of 6:05.60 in the 400m individual medley (IM) all season. On Saturday night, she was able to swim a personal best of 6:03.09 to go under the CARIFTA qualifying time for the first time.
David Singh also had a strong meet once again, competing in the 11-12 boys division. He lowered his CARIFTA qualifying times in several events.
The 12-year-old was unstoppable in the 50m back as he went under 32 seconds for the first time with a personal best of 31.53 seconds. Mako’s Harold Simmons finally got his CARIFTA qualifying time in that event when he clocked 33.57 seconds to finish second. The host club’s Christon Joseph, who won the high-point award for that category, touched the wall in a time of 34.31 seconds.
Singh, along with the Black Marlins Swim Club’s Alexander Murray, got company in the 200m breast among the qualifiers as Mako’s Trace Russell powered through and finished with a time of 2:57.60. Murray was second, improving his CARIFTA qualifying time to 3:03.49. Finishing third in a time of 3:28.70 was Lightning Aquatics’ De’Kayden Emmanuel.
“The meet was great,” said Singh. “I won all my races and was able to drop times. I was happy to lower my times as CARIFTA is right around the corner and it gives me a better chance to make the team.”
Singh was in action in the 400m free and he shaved some time off his CARIFTA qualifying time when he comfortably won that race in 4:52.45. He is still the only one to go under the five-minute mark in this race. His closest competitor on Saturday was Mako’s Kaylan Williams who swam 5:05.82 to go under the CARIFTA qualifying time.
Williams hopes to make the CARIFTA team and was happy with his performance at the meet.
“It was a great meet for me. I was able to drop times in all my races,” said Williams. “I am looking to make the CARIFTA team and medal there. It has been looking good for me and I hope to make the team and perform to the best of his ability.”
Alpha’s Blake Comarcho finished third in 5:21.17.
Murray dipped under the CARIFTA qualifying mark in 100m breast, swimming 1:24.32 to qualify for CARIFTA in that event. Mako’s Trace Russell powered his way to win that race in 1:20.52. The Black Marlins swimmer was also able to achieve the qualifying time in the 50m breast with a second-place time of 37.43 seconds. Winning that race was Russell who clocked 35.54 seconds.
Joseph went from not having the qualifying time in the 11-12 boys 200m free to being the target in that event when he shaved over four seconds off his previous personal best to win that event with a time of 2:20.44. Comarcho and Simmons were a distant second and third, respectively. Comarcho swam 2:28.04 and Simmons touched the wall in 2:32.74.
Lyford Cay’s Jaylah Threadgill was able to improve on her CARIFTA qualifying time in winning the 13-14 girls 100m breast in a time of 1:27.15. Barracuda’s Dayna Ingraham was second in 1:36.36 as her teammate Noel Pratt placed third in 1:37.41.
Donald Saunders Jr. is having a strong year in the pool. He was able to lower his time in the 13-14 boys 200m free when he touched the wall in 2:04.14. The Black Marlins’ Malcolm Menzies finished second in 2:17.14. The Blue Waves’ Kevin Johnson placed third in 2:19.43.
Brown said he was happy to see the swimmers clock some good times. He is looking for his swimmers in the Blue Waves Swim Club to continue to perform well this coming weekend.
“I cannot wait to get the meet report, so I could start a new map, so I can see what we need to do next week heading into CARIFTA trials,” said Brown. “I had a few qualifying times from the team this weekend. We will look at it and see who is close and possibly make some changes.”
The CARIFTA Trials is set for March 3-4 at the Betty Kelly-Kenning National Aquatics Center. As for CARIFTA, the junior regional swimming championships will be held at the Sentro Deportivo Korsou in Willemstad, Curaçao, from April 6-9.