Bermuda's CARIFTA Swimming Championship medallists. *photo supplied
Bermuda's CARIFTA Swimming Championship medallists. *photo supplied

National swimming coach Ben Smith saluted his record-breaking CARIFTA squad as ‘amazing’ after they collected a best-ever 22 medals at the prestigious regional meet.

Emma Harvey led the way with eight medals from eight races, including four gold, in a series of performances that Smith said ‘took the meet by storm’ last week.

Jesse Washington, Maddy Moore, Ashley Irby and Shannon Hassell were also regulars on the podium, while the girls’ relay team of Harvey, Irby, Alyssa Paynter and Izzy Dutranoit claimed two surprise silvers.

Smith told the Bermuda Sun: “I have a great group of kids that have been focused on swimming fast in the CARIFTA for a long time and have been training hard.

“It all came together at the right time. It’s a young group as well, so things look good for the future.”

While it was a team effort, Harvey, competing in the 11-12 year-olds age group, proved the headline act, not only for Bermuda but also arguably the entire four-day event.

Smith said: “Eight from eight was quite an amazing feat, and being able to perform across multiple strokes was amazing. It soon became clear she had taken the meet by storm and every time she went up she was able to go faster.”

He added: “We were quietly hopeful she was going to have this performance because she’s an IM swimmer so she swims across the strokes.

“She was up against swimmers for whom that is their event, so to swim that performance over four days was amazing.  It was like a domino effect and she knocked it out of the park.”

The talented Jesse Washington struggled with his starts off the block — a ‘weakness’ that he and Smith are working hard on — yet still came home with an impressive medal tally.

Thirteen-year-old Moore’s victory in the 50m freestyle, which qualified her for the Youth Olympics this summer, was arguably the best individual swim from the team and Smith was effusive in his praise.

“She is at the bottom of the 13-14 age group and she beat the CARIFTA record and the Bermuda record and that time would have won the 15-17 age group,” he said. “It was a senior level swim by a 13-year-old. She had been showing signs she had been going in that direction – but the truth is that wasn’t even her best swim!”

Irby, who is also a Front Street Mile champion, got in on the golds as well and Smith says the final tally was testament to the team’s fitness and desire.

Smith said: “It’s a four-day event, tough conditions in the heat where the temperature was over 90 degrees most of the time, so to have the performances we had on day three and four when the fatigue set in was really good to see.”