Stingrays glide to Florida glory

A “Tour de Florida” brought Stingray’s season to a triumphant close.

The ideal training scenario for competitive swimmers is to mix long/short course training each week (25 metres and 50m) and the Tour de Florida was Stingray Swim Club’s attempt to give its swimmers just this.

The build-up to the tour was carefully managed by Stingray’s head coach Andy Copley as his swimmers competed for four weeks straight via the Flowers Sea Swim, The Caledonian Global Challenge (hosted at the Lions Pool), the Sarasota Sharks Open and the grand finale, The St. Petersburg Aquatics – Long Course Invitational which was the taper meet, marking the end of the season’s third training cycle.

“After swimming the Flowers Mile, events for both the Caledonian Global Meet and the Sarasota Open were managed carefully,” Copley explained. “The swimmers were still training, but supplementing the training in a competitive atmosphere.

“Strategic event selection, coupled with sufficient rest (they did not swim a full schedule of events) allowed them to stay competitive while also tapering for the St. Petersburg meet.”

In addition to the two meets in Florida, the swimmers trained – and tapered – in a 50m pool which gave them great experience and allowed them to adapt to the long course swimming in advance of the meet in St. Petersburg.

This was the first “Tour de Florida” and results show it was a worthy venture – swimmers had multiple personal bests, Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association and national records tumbled and the team bonding and camaraderie which took place was irreplaceable.

Stingray’s SKY (Stingray Cayman Islands) swimmers began their tour at the Sharks Open Long Course Meet in Sarasota, Florida. Alison Jackson, fresh from setting multiple short course records at the recent Caledonian Meet, continued this form with a bronze medal winning swim in the 10-and-under 50m backstroke (39.55) and silver in the 10-and under-100m freestyle; smashing the CIASA and national record with a 1:11.61.

The Sharks Open was a prelims/finals meet format for swimmers 11 and over and on their first day of competing SKY Swimmers cheered on the following finals swimmers: Alex McCallum (2:06.42, Open 200m Freestyle), Cole Morgan (15/16 200m Back), Ashley Theaker (13/14 200m free) and Samantha Bailey (11/12 100m, 200m freestyle, 50m backstroke). Bailey sprinted to silver in her 50m backstroke (34.89).

On day two, Alison Jackson’s bronze medal in the 9/10 50m breaststroke was a new CIASA and national record (42.90); and she also set new CIASA and national figures in the 9-10 50m butterfly (37.65) when taking fifth place.

While in the evening’s finals session, Sarah Jackson secured a silver medal and a new national record of 38.33 in the 11/12 50m breaststroke. Alex Dakers and Stefanie Boothe both swam to lifetime best performances during the final session; Dakers going 40.62 to place fifth in the 11/12 50m breaststroke and Boothe also placing fifth in the 11/12 50m butterfly in 31.53.

Moving to the St. Petersburg Aquatics 50m pool, the opening session was one of celebration as McCallum swam the race of his life to secure a place in the prestigious Loughborough University swim squad.

Swimming in the 400m freestyle, McCallum went through the first 200m in a lifetime best of 2:05 and finished the race with a huge lifetime best performance of 4:17.42; some four seconds+ inside the time required for the university’s national development squad.

CARIFTA medallist Cole Morgan struck gold the first night in the 50m backstroke 31.06 with Catriona Macrae taking bronze in the women’s event 34.21. Alison Jackson continued her winning ways with victory in the 9/10 200m IM with 2:58.99 whilst McCallum took bronze in the 18yrs+ in 4:17.42.

On Day Two, Alison Jackson was once again on the golden trail as she powered her way to gold in the 9/10 50m breaststroke and 9/10 50m freestyle; her times of 42.01 and 32.81 being new CIASA and national long course records. While sister, Sarah, raced to gold in the 11/12 50m breaststroke (38.48) before going on to take bronze in the 11/12 50m freestyle in a new national record time of 30.40.

CARIFTA medallist Samantha Bailey, took the 11/12 100m backstroke title in 1:16.64 and secured bronze in the 11/12 200m freestyle with 2:24.11.

Boothe, swimming with increased confidence in every meet, sprinted to victory in the 11/12 50m butterfly (31.81) and completed a Cayman 1-2 in the 50m breaststroke with a silver medal winning time of 40.91. In the boy’s event, Dakers hit the top spot in the 11/12 50m breaststroke in 40.56.

Day three opened with Alison Jackson swimming to gold in the 9/10 100m freestyle (1:12.02) followed by a hat trick of back to back wins in the breaststroke events: Sarah Jackson taking the 11/12 100m in a new national record of 1:26.37; Dakers winning the boys 11/12 in 1:30.37 and Alison Jackson taking the 9/10 in a new CIASA and national record of 1:34.87. Alison finished the session as she began, with gold in the 9/10 50m backstroke in 38.58.

These winning swims were supported by outstanding medal winning performances with Bailey narrowly missing the CIASA record with a bronze medal performance of 1:06.60 in the 11/12 100m freestyle; she went on to take silver in the 11/12 50m backstroke (34.93).

Team-mate Boothe also took a pair of medals, bronze in the 11/12 100m breaststroke (1:28.26) and bronze in the 11/12 100m butterfly (1:15.16) and Dakers raced to silver in the 11/12 100m butterfly (1:19.40).

The final session saw Macrae with a silver medal winning performance in the 13/14 100m backstroke of 1:12.83 whilst McCallum, buoyed with confidence, swam to bronze in the Senior 100m backstroke in a lifetime best of 1:03.61 and Morgan swam to sixth place in the same event with 1:05.64.

“The PBs, the CIASA and national records and the Top 10 finishes tell the story,” said Stingray President Brenda McGrath. “Some of those records were set over 10 years ago – and now they are starting to fall.

“Coach Andy has had a great first year here at Stingray, our athletes are training hard and the fast swimming results are coming. I am incredibly proud of them all and thank all of the parents and corporate sponsors who make it all possible.”

Although the 2012-13 season is over, there is still a great deal of swimming that went on off Cayman’s shores. Lifetime Stingray members Shaune and Brett Fraser, accompanied by teammates Geoffrey and Lara Butler and McCallum, represented the Cayman Islands at the 2013 Natwest Island Games and brought in a record number of medals and top 10 finishes.

Stingray swimmer and CARIFTA finalist Ella Plunkett competed in the Irish National Age Group Championships in July and swam to four PBs in six events to gain great international experience.

In Cayman, there will be a swim camp, open to the community, in early August.