Tennessee Commits Shine at 2023 CARIFTA Championships

2023 CARIFTA Aquatic Championships

In early April, the beautiful Caribbean island of Curaçao hosted the 2023 Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA) Aquatics Championships. The Games were initially set to be held on St. Lucia but were moved in September of 2022 after organizers felt that the facilities there might not be ready in time.

The swimming portion of the Games was staged at the Pisina Enith Brigitha, named after the famed native Curaçaoan swimmer. Brigitha twice represented the Netherlands in the Olympics (‘72 Munich and ‘76 Montreal) and was the first Black swimmer to win an Olympic medal.

The Bahamas repeated as champions, placing first out of the 20 competing nations with 1,113 points. This win marked their fifth consecutive time atop the podium. The Cayman Islands and Trinidad and Tobago rounded out the top three with 752 and 534 points, respectively. The Bahamas’ victory came courtesy of a whopping 85 total medals, 37 of which were gold.

On the boys’ side, recent University of Tennessee commit Nikoli Blackman came out as the high point winner for the 15-17 age group. The Trinidad and Tobago native, noted as a freestyle sprinter, showed off his skills by winning the 50 (22.54), the 100 (50.07, a new meet record), and the 200 freestyle (1:51.76) events. Both the 50 and 100 times are under the 2023 World Championships ‘B’ cut times.

Blackman wasn’t alone in breaking some records, however. Indiana commit Raekwon Noel also joined the party. Noel, representing Guyana, won the 800 free in a time of 8:29.52 and the 1500 free in 16:17.92. He also placed first in the 200 butterfly, 400 free and 400 IM.

The highpoint winner in the women’s 15-17 age group was Lila Higgo, representing the Cayman Islands. Just 15 years old, she won and reset the meet record in the 50 back, swimming a time of 29.51. She also got her hand to the wall first in the 200 back (2:22.19), the 200 IM (2:23.34) and the 400 IM (5:17.99), showing off a wide range of swimming abilities. Her records didn’t just stop at one, however, as she also led off the Cayman Islands team in the 400 freestyle relay. The team set a new benchmark time of 3:57.63.

Swimming second on that relay was Jillian Crooks, a Tokyo 2020 Olympian who is the younger sister of the reigning NCAA champion in the men’s 50 free, Jordan Crooks.

While placing second in the highpoint rankings behind her teammate, Higgo, Crooks also had several record-setting swims. She rewrote the record book in the 50 fly (27.82), the 100 back (1:03.00), 50 free (26.08), and the 100 free (56.44) in addition to the aforementioned relay. She will join her brother in the fall of 2024 at the University of Tennessee.

Full results as well as a list of the highpoint winners, and new records can be found here.

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1 day ago

reigning NCAA AND World champion, Jordan Crooks* !