It’s been a banner year for the Camana Bay Aquatic Club. The competitive swim team not only enjoyed tremendous growth and achievements but added an impressive list of firsts as well – including completing its first full season as a club.
“There’s a huge sense of pride to see the growth we’ve had this season, the firsts we’ve achieved and the level our club has risen to,” says Coach Katie Lambert. “We’ve really come a long way in a short space of time.”
The club has grown from strength to strength since its inception in December 2010. It started out with around 20 members and now has 138 in its fold, spanning from ages five to 16. The 2011-12 season saw a number of inroads being made including making a splash in several international meets as well as launching a number of local races that attracted broad support.
To celebrate its successes, a year-end banquet on 17 June at Grand Old House drew around 200 people, including swimmers, their families and coaching staff.
“It’s a night to celebrate everything we have achieved over the year, to come together as a team before the end of the season, to recognize all their efforts and reward them for their hard work,” says Lambert. “It’s very much a family evening.”
Trophies were presented in four categories, the Team Spirit Award, Most Improved Swimmer, Coaches Excellence Award and Swimmer of the Year. Badges were also handed out to those improving their times in the events they swam.
Top swimmers in the club’s inaugural fundraising Swim-a-Thon were recognised along with the top fundraiser and the participant who swam the most lengths. Overall top achievers of the club’s season were also recognised.
It was a season of firsts for the club, beginning with hosting its first local swim meet in October dressed around a Halloween theme, Spooky Splash. The group participated in several international competitions, including a first travel meet in December to the Mega City and Youth Cup races in Toronto, with 28 swimmers taking part. They also competed for the first time in the Coral Springs Open Invitational Swim Meet in Florida in February.
The Swim-a-Thon fundraiser in January was an unqualified success. Along with raising funds for the club, the event set an impressive challenge: to log the same number of miles that marathon swimmer Penny Palfrey did when she set the world record for the longest solo ocean swim after conquering the 67.25-mile stretch between Little Cayman and Grand Cayman last year.
That goal was not only met but exceeded: participants collectively swam it three times over.
The club also launched the Camana Bay Aquatic Club Open Water Series in preparation for the Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association’s 800m open water season. The three-race series enjoyed a high participation rate, with peak enrolment of 131 swimmers.
At the start of each swim was the Lollipop Dash, a 200m race for youngsters 10 and under who are new to open water. At the finish, each swimmer received a lollipop. “We’re looking forward to seeing open water develop and grow,” says Lambert. “One of the reasons for launching the series is to promote swimming locally and the various programmes in aquatics.”
Lambert feels one of the year’s highlights was the club’s first time participating in the CARIFTA Swimming Championships held in April in The Bahamas. The CARIFTA four-day local qualifying meet, the Peter Ribbins Memorial Meet, saw the club place eight swimmers on the Cayman Islands team and one on the Jamaican team.
They returned from CARIFTA with six medals, including three individual and three relay. For two of the participants, it was their first time competing at CARIFTA.
“It was impressive they made the finals and more impressive they made the podium.”
Cub president Jeffrey Wight says landing their first major corporate sponsor was a great achievement. MaplesFS has signed on to support training of CBAC’s top training group, now named MaplesFS Select, as well as to assist with team travel expenses and to support a scholarship programme.
“The MaplesFS sponsorship shows the willingness of the community to support what we are doing, and it’s also recognition that we are doing it well,” says Wight. “It’s rewarding being able to stand back and see where we started and how we have grown. And it’s not just in numbers, but what we have grown into and achieved.”
Coach Dominic Ross joined the club in March and says helping swimmers achieve their goals has been the highlight of the season. “For me it’s being given the opportunity to share the dreams of the athletes.
“Our role as coaches is to help them reach their potential, and it’s always great to be a part of that.”
Wight adds competitive swimming – and sports in general – goes a long way in building life skills. “It’s the values sport teaches you – discipline, work ethic, respect, time management, team spirit, goal setting and healthy lifestyles. It really builds well-rounded, valued members of our community.”
The club is looking ahead to its next season and adding a few more firsts to its list of accomplishments. They already have one in the wings – this fall, the club is expanding to include a swim school that will offer swimming lessons open to everyone in the community, from youngsters to adults.
The new school and new season begins in early September and Lambert is looking forward to building on their success. “I’m really excited to see where we will go over the next couple of years,” she says. “We’re looking forward to reaching new heights and standards next season and striving to be the best club in the region and recognised internationally.”