It took 23 years, but 12-year-old Luke Higgo finally broke Caymanian Olympian Andrew Mackay's national age-group record, helping to lead the Camana Bay Aquatic Club to victory at the Coconut Cup swim meet held 3-5 December at the Camana Bay Sports Complex pool.
The Coconut Cup is an annual chance for Cayman's young swimmers to show their mettle against swimmers from other clubs. This year, 92 amateur swimmers from Seven Mile Swimmers, the Stingray Swim Club and the Camana Bay Aquatic Club —or CBAC as it is commonly referred to — participated.
The three-day swim meet also gives the participants the opportunity to qualify for the annual CARIFTA Aquatics Championships. In addition to Higgo, other swimmers who qualified for CARIFTA included Coco McGrath, Allyson Belfonte, Tate Marr, Reagan Lisle and Azania Osborne.
Higgo cut more than a full second off Mackay's 1998 national age-group record in the 100-meter backstroke, with a new time of 1:07.42.
"My plan was to swim as fast as I could and to try and get a personal best time," he said. "To not only get a PB, but also set a national record is awesome."
CBAC's Head Coach Grant Ferguson spoke about the importance of the Coconut Cup for the participants.
"What's special about this meet is it runs for three days, and two of the days are heats and finals," he said, noting the format is similar to international swim meets.
"This helps prepare the swimmers for meets if they go and compete in international events."
MORE THAN JUST SWIMMING
For many of the young people, competitive swimming helps them in other aspects of their lives. It requires commitment and hard work, and teaches them to cope with setbacks.
Thirteen-year-old Chantal Kerr has had more than her fair share of setbacks, including breaking her ankle when she was younger, and more recently breaking her shoulder in several different places.
"One of the pieces got stuck and I had to have it taken out with surgery," she said. "So that put me back with my training."
Nevertheless, Chantal trained extra hard to make up for lost time, and is very close to qualifying for CARIFTA. Beyond the competition, she said swimming helps her deal with other aspects of her life.
"Swimming relieves so much stress for me," she said. "If I haven't had a good day at school, swimming allows me to forget about all of that. I'm just focusing on my time, and I just want to go faster."
Kyra Rabess, 17, one of Cayman's top swimmers, just got back from Junior Pan American Games in Colombia.
"It was a great learning experience and it was one of the biggest games I have been to," she said. "Swimming has helped me stay more organised, and it has helped me find different ways to overcome problems."
James Allison, who belongs to Seven Mile Swimmers and went to World Championships in Abu Dhabi in December, agreed that all the training he has to do in swimming makes him a lot more organised.
"That's because I'm training nine times a week and having to fit schoolwork around that," he said.
This article appeared in print in the January 2022 edition of Camana Bay Times.
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