FEATURED IMAGE: The team that set Carifta records in the 4×100 and 4×50 freestyle relays (front row, left to right) Giovanni Rivas, Zachary Anthony (back row, left to right), Zarek Wilson, Nikoli Blackman
Future swim and athletic stars from Catholic schools were on show at the 2023 CARIFTA Aquatic Championships, April 5–12 at the Enith Brigitha Pisina in Sentro Deportivo Korsou, Curacao, and April 7–9 at the Thomas Robinson track and field Stadium in Nassau, Bahamas. Records were broken and medals won in competitions.
Presentation College San Fernando, Form Three student, 14-year-old Liam Carrington ended CARIFTA with 10 gold and 5 silver medals plus a trophy. He was on the 4 x 50 metre and 4 x 100 metre relay team which broke records. He swam the last leg, as the anchor.
On his own, he surpassed the 50 metre CARIFTA (27:67) and national records (27:41) for the 50 metre Backstroke with a time of 27:34. Carrington won a bronze in the 50-metre butterfly. “I felt really proud and really good about myself to break the record”, he told the Catholic News.
Record breaking performances do not happen without discipline and rigorous training. Carrington, a member of the Marlins Swim Club, trained twice daily Monday to Saturday. He intends to pursue swimming professionally.
Zarec Wilson is a former Presentation San Fernando student. He took part in eight events and earned 7 gold, 1 silver and 2 bronze medals and set three championship records. Four gold were individual medals—50 metre, 100 metre and 200 metre Backstroke and 50 metre Butterfly.
He won the Boys 15–17, 50 metre Butterfly in a record-setting time of 24:95 seconds, lowering the time from the previous record of 25:06 held by T&T national Joshua Romany in the 2013 CARIFTA.
He won gold from the 200 metre, 400 metre and 800 metre Freestyle relays. The 200 metre and 400 metre races had record breaking times. Wilson’s silver medal came in the 400 metre Medley relay.
“I liked some of it, but I think I can work on others as well, but that goes with everything; you could always improve, especially the Backstroke”, Wilson said candidly. Asked his preferred race, he chose the sprint events 50 metre and 100 metre because they are Freestyle.
Preparation for the competition involved longer hours in the pool and gym training. “I would have to work more with my coaches on stuff like my technique and my power,” he said.
Wilson left T&T at the end of 2020 during the pandemic and after completing his studies is “college bound” in August to the University of Alabama where he will continue swimming for the college in the Southeastern Conference. Wilson began swimming at five years. Looking ahead, he has his sights set on participating in the Olympics.
St Benedict’s College, Form One student Aaron Siewal made his debut in the Championships and won gold in the Boys 11–12 200 metre Butterfly and silver in the Boys 11–12, 400 metre Medley, dropping 13 seconds off his personal best with a new time of 5:44.00. Siewal placed fourth in the 100 metre Butterfly.
He said, “As a first timer on the national team, the experience I had at the CARIFTA championships was amazing. I came home with two medals, a gold and silver, but more importantly I made my CCCAN (Central American and Caribbean Amateur Swimming Confederation) qualifying time.”
He was confident going into the pool as working with his coach Paul Newallo prepared him mentally and physically. Mental preparation was a big part of his performance.
Siewal said: “In my head I knew the time I wanted to obtain, and it made the swim easier because I wanted to achieve my goal. Standing on the podium for the first time and singing the National Anthem made me feel proud.”
On the track
In athletics, Form Five student Stefan Camejo of St Francis Boys’ College got bronze in the Under 20, 800 metre at the 2023 CARIFTA Games. It was an amazing experience for him to participate and be part of the T&T team. “I went into the competition with the mindset of doing my best, actually coming out with a bronze medal was truly a blessing for me,” Camejo said.
A personal best in the semis made this competition memorable. The finals pushed him to “a new level”. Camejo, 18, said: “With all of that it was amazing and truly refreshing as I made the team in 2020 and CARIFTA Games was cancelled that year due to Covid. This being my last CARIFTA it’s truly refreshing coming out with a medal.”
Camejo was described by a school official as an “integral part” of his school’s athletic team since Form One.
By Lara Pickford-Gordon