Athletes head to CARIFTA championships

Seven Clifton Hunter High School students are among 30 Cayman track and field athletes participating in the CARIFTA Games this weekend. Back row from left, Errol Smith, Jori Ebanks, Gary Rankin, Silver Hurlston; front row, Daneika Lyn, Tori Ann Gonez and Monique Gordon. - Photo: Mark Muckenfuss

A group of Cayman Islands athletes will depart Thursday, March 29, to compete in the annual CARIFTA championships in two different locations.

Thirty track and field competitors will travel to the Bahamas for the CARIFTA Games, while 36 swimmers will compete in the CARIFTA Swimming Championships in Kingston, Jamaica.

National track and field coach Kenrick Williams said Cayman is sending its largest ever contingent to the CARIFTA event, in part to gear up for next year’s games, which will be hosted here. The last time the games were held here was in 2010.

“What we are doing is we’re preparing for 2019,” Mr. Williams said.

That does not mean he is not looking for good performances.

“We are competitive in the female throws,” he said, referring to the shot put, discus and javelin events, “and the boys middle and long distance and the hurdles. In certain events we’re very competitive.”

Among the medal contenders, he said, could be the 17 and under boys, and girls 4X 100 relays.

Seven of those runners are students at Clifton Hunter High School. One of them, Gary Rankin, 16, said he and his fellow runners feel a responsibility as representatives of the territory.

“We have to make Cayman look good,” Gary said. “I feel our chances are very high because we have a lot of capabilities of coming top five, or top three and even first.”

The CARIFTA Games, which began in 1972, will bring together 500 athletes from 26 Caribbean countries for the four-day event.

MLA David Wight poses with the Cayman Islands CARIFTA swim team.

Gary said he and his fellow runners often compete in events on nearby islands and in the United States, but the CARIFTA Games are different.

“Bahamas is going to be on a whole other level,” he said.

It represents not only a sporting opportunity, but an educational one as well.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get recognized by colleges,” Gary said.

All of the Clifton Hunter athletes said they are hoping to earn scholarships in track that would allow them to attend college overseas. But they first want to perform well for their island home.

“When you go, you don’t wear a Clifton Hunter uniform,” said Monique Gordon. “You’re wearing Cayman.”

The CARIFTA Swimming Championships began on March 15. Events include not only swimming, but water polo, diving and synchronized swimming – six of the 36 Cayman swimmers going to the competition are members of a synchronized swimming team, the first that Cayman has fielded. Like the track team, this is the largest group of aquatic athletes Cayman has ever sent to the CARIFTA championships.

The athletes will be part of more than 550 competitors from 24 countries attending the event. The swimmers will compete in both long-course and open water events, attempting to surpass last year’s total of 50 medals, and third place overall finish.

“​This is a strategic and important competition and is a great opportunity for swimmers to see the product of their hard work since last summer,” said Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association President Michael Lockwood in a press release. “This will be the first national level competition for synchronised swimmers, and we are excited for them to compete in the Caribbean alongside their peers.”

Here is a list of the athletes scheduled to compete in the two CARIFTA events:

Track and Field

  • Under 17 girls: Tori Ann Gonez; Jaden Francis; Ava Hider; Ruth Anne Douglas; Ashantae Graham; Daneika Lyn; Monique Gordon
  • Under 17 boys: Levi Superville; Jahiem Morgan; Jori Ebanks; Derrick Francis; Neil Brown; Silver Hurlston; Errol Smith
  • Under 20 girls: Shalysa Wray; Aijah Lewis; Lacee Barnes; Daneliz Thomas
  • Under 20 boys: Michael Smikle; Victor Magalhaes; Rasheem Brown; Karim Murray; Lamar Reid; Louis Gordon; Brandon Moore; Najae Gordon; Gary Rankin; Melike Copeland; DauJaughn Murray; Kashief Dawkins

Swimming

  • Boys 11-12: Jake Alberga; Stefano Bonati
  • Girls 11-12: Allyson Belfonte; Brittany Chin; Jillian Crooks; Tabitha Hawkins; Abbey Walton
  • Boys 13-14: Jake Bailey; Fin Bishop; Cory Frederick-Westerborg; Ben Sommerville
  • Girls 13-14: Sophie Ackerley; Avery Lambert; Sabine Ellison; Raya Embury-Brown; Kyra Rabess; Stephanie Royston
  • Boys 15-17: John Bodden; Jordan Crooks; Alex Dakers; Liam Henry; Zachary Moore; Matthew Somerville; Eddie Weber
  • Girls 15-17: Sam Bailey; Sarah Jackson; Emily Link; Ella Plunkett; Ria Plunkett; Elana Sinclair
  • Synchronized Swimmers: Amber Barnes; Jade Barnes; Abbie Carnahan; Helena Frawley; Nicolas Isabel; Madison Van Duynhoven

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