The Bahamas Swim Team made history after winning the 2014 CARIFTA Swimming Championships for the first time since the event began.
It took four grueling days of competition to get it done, but, at the end of it all, the 36-member Bahamian swim team emerged victorious over 20 other countries to claim the country’s first ever CARIFTA swimming title. The win comes on the heels of a disappointing seventh-place finish by the CARIFTA track and field team just a few days earlier.
Since the coming together of the young but talented squad, there have been a lot of high hopes and expectations. Head Coach Andy Knowles seemed confident leading up to the event. He often spoke about the strength and depth of the squad and its ability to do something special.
Team Bahamas finished the event with 736.50 points, more than 100 points ahead of second-place finisher Aruba. Host country, Aruba, scored 618 points, and two-time champion, Guadeloupe, finished third, with 540 points. The Bahamas also topped the medal standings, finishing with 55 total medals – 23 gold, 22 silver and 10 bronze. Aruba was next with 51 total medals – 16, gold, 16 silver and 19 bronze, and Trinidad & Tobago was third on the medal chart with 34 total medals – 16 gold, 11 silver and seven bronze.
This year served somewhat as a year of redemption for Team Bahamas, after last year’s team finished in fifth position, the lowest finish for the team in the past 10 years.
Joanna Evans and Margaret Albury Higgs were expected to be key contributors for the team, and they did not disappoint. They finished as the High Point award winners in their respective divisions.
Albury Higgs captured the 13-14 girls division with 78 total points, more than twice as much as the next highest scorer, Lesy Celini of Guadeloupe, with 35 points.
Evans also took her age division quite convincingly. She won the 15-17 girls division with 70 points. Daniella Van den Berg, of Aruba, was the next highest scorer, with 41 total points.
The Bahamas won 16 medals on the final night of competition to raise its total to 55. Albury Higgs was very impressive as she dominated the 13-14 girls 200 meters (m) individual medley (IM), as well as the 50m breaststroke, while Evans finished first in the 15-17 girls 200m IM and the 100m freestyle.
Dustin Tynes was also impressive. He finished first in the 15-17 boys 50m breaststroke in a CARIFTA record time of 29.08 seconds. Laura Morley finished first in the 15-17 girls 50m breast, and Samuel Gibson took the gold in the 11-12 boys 50m butterfly.
The 11-12 boys won the 400m medley relay in 4:33.43, almost 10 seconds ahead of second place finisher, Martinique. The team consisted of Peter Morley, Izaak Bastian, Darren Laing and Samuel Gibson. Bastian also finished second in the 11-12 boys 50m breast.
The open water division was added to the competition this year. It has not been one of the country’s main focus over the years, but even so, Evans managed to win gold in the 15-17 5k open water swim race, an event that Coach Knowles feels needs more focus.
Joshua Wong made a strong showing in his first CARIFTA and says he hopes to make an even bigger impact for Team Bahamas at CISC in the summer.
He competed well in every race he entered and missed earning three medals in three events by a combined total of .86 seconds. At the end of the competition Joshua placed fourth in the 100 and 200 meter Breaststroke and seventh in the 50 meter Breaststroke. He also placed fifth as a part of the 400 meter Medley Relay team.
He said “I really didn’t know what to expect at first but once we got there and got adjusted to everything it got easier. Like my first race I was really nervous because I didn’t want to mess up but after my first race I was fine.”
Joshua said that CARIFTA was a real eye-opener for him with the level of competition there. “It was one race after another; it was really fast. I didn’t expect it to be that fast,” he said.
“This is what I was training for,” Joshua said. “You really have to work hard to get on the team and I am really proud of myself for making it there.” He said he is also happy that he dropped time in all of his races which was one of his biggest goals.
He said “It’s a really good feeling to know that I’m a part of that team (that won The Bahamas first CARIFTA meet).”
Miller Albury said he was proud to be a part of the Bahamas National CARIFTA Swim Team, making history for The Bahamas in Aruba. Although this was his third appearance at CARIFTA, this one was “Special”, as the team came away with the first place title for the first time in the history of the competition.
Miller made his contribution swimming eleven events, making finals in six of those events, with personal best times in 50 meter freestyle, 100 meter freestyle and 100 meter butterfly.
“It was a tough meet for me, especially in backstroke, with strong competition from the field, hundredths of a second deciding winners and losers”, Miller said, missing the 50 meter backstroke final by one-one-hundredth of a second.
However, Miller said he thoroughly enjoyed the experience adding that these are “some of the best memories of my life. I was happy to be a part of this experience and love this entire team with all my heart”.
Miller missed the welcome home both in Nassau and in Abaco as he and other teammates returned directly to school in the US. He says he will now set his sights on The RBC National Swimming competition in June and hopes to attend the CICS swimming competition in Barbados in July.
Attending her second CARIFTA event Lily Higgs said that this years’ experience was different her first year. “I went in more focused and in much better shape. Even though I was at the younger end of the age group, I was still determined to get on the podium and I achieved my goal with a bronze in the 200 meter Individual Medley!” she said.
She said “It was great to see all the friends from other countries around the Caribbean, and I met knew ones this year.”
She said she looks forward to representing the Bahamas again in Barbados for her first CISC Swimming competition in July.
Besides a bronze medal – her first CARIFTA medal – Lilly earned fifth place in the 400 meter Individual Medley, sixth place in the 5K open water swim and eighth place in the 800 meter freestyle with personal best times in every race.
Margaret Albury Higgs
Competing in her fourth CARIFTA, Margaret Albury Higgs continues to make her country proud, including a record breaking performance.
“Since I was entered this year under converted (short course) times, it was not a sure thing that I would win even the races where I was seeded first,” Albury said. “Luckily, I ended up with first or second finishes in all my best races and even a few others.”
“When I broke the record for the 100 Breast, it was a great feeling,” she said. “And I am so proud to be a part of the first Bahamas CARIFTA Champion team as well.”
She said she has been working hard training, and is very pleased with her results. Albury earned five gold medals in the 200, 100 and 50 meter breaststroke, and 400 and 200 meter individual medley. She earned four silver medals in the 800, 400 and 200 meter freestyle and 200 meter butterfly. She also earned fourth place in the 200 meter backstroke and fifth place in the 5K open water swim.
Albury set a new CARIFTA record in the 100 meter breaststroke with a time of 1:14.91, and was the High Point winner for her age group with 82 total points.