April 20, 2004 – "Our swimmers are doing very, very well, winning many, many medals," Eric Hutchins, V.I. Swimming Federation president, said on Sunday.
By the end of the four-day CARIFTA Games competition in Nassau, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islanders had picked up 14 medals — nine bronzes and five silvers.
Cindy Whitehurst, a parent who has been going to CARIFTA events since 1999, said, "It was truly one of the most outstanding performances our youngsters have had there."
Two V.I. records were set. Ryan Nelthropp set the first when he won the 200-meter freestyle in 2:03.02. He also earned a bronze medal with that finish.
Ryan also earned a bronze in the 200-meter individual medley with a time of 2:20.12 and silver in the 100-meter backstroke with a time of 1:05.78.
But that was early in the competition. On Sunday, it was even better. He won the bronze in the 400-meter freestyle with a time of 4:22.89 and the silver in the 200-meter backstroke with a time of 2:22.40. His five medals led the team.
Winning medals is not new to Ryan. At the 2002 CARIFTA Games he captured one bronze, three silvers and a gold. The 15-year-old high school student is a member of the St. Croix Dolphins swim club, as are all of the other swimmers who represented the territory at the Nassau competition.
Hutchins said Ryan "did unbelievably well. He improved all of his swims."
Following close behind him with four medals was 18-year-old Jaime Shufflebarger. She set the other V.I. record, in the 200-meter individual medley with a time of 2:30.88. She picked up a bronze medal while she was setting it.
Jaime's three other medals, all bronze, came in the 200-meter breaststroke with a time of 2:51.88 in the flystroke with a time of 2:33.87 and in the 100-meter breaststroke.
She won five medals at last year's CARIFTA Games. She also has competed in the World Championships at Barcelona and the Pan Am Games in Winnipeg and Santo Domingo.
The biggest V.I. surprise this time out was Jemille Vialet, who was competing in his first CARIFTA Games. He picked up a bronze medal and had three fourth-place finishes.
The most exciting event for the Virgin Islanders had to be the 200-meter individual medley. Brandon Whitehurst won the silver by beating Ryan Nelthropp by two-hundredths of a second.
Other medals awarded to V.I. team members were:
Keri Whitehurst, 200-meter freestyle 2:13:21 (bronze)
Keri Whitehurst, 100-meter freestyle 1:01:07 (silver)
Jemille Vialet, 100-meter backstroke 1:11:71 (bronze)
Branden Whitehurst, 200-meter individual medley 2:20:12 (silver)
Morgan Locke, 100-meter freestyle 54:26 (silver)
The following were notable finishes that did not earn medals:
Branden Whitehurst, 200-meter freestyle 2:04:77 (5th)
Morgan Locke, 200-meter freestyle 2:01:96 (5th)
Morgan Locke, 100-meter flystroke 1:02:15 (7th)
Morgan Locke, 200-meter individual medley 2:15:80 (5th)
Morgan Locke, 200-meter backstroke 2:21.85 (4th)
Morgan Locke, 50-meter freestyle 25.33 (4th)
Keri Whitehurst, 100-meter flystroke 1:11:05 (5th)
Jemille Vialet, 1,000-meter freestyle 1:07:08 (7th)
Jemille Vialet, 200-meter backstroke 2:39.89 (4th)
Jemille Vialet, 100-meter breaststroke (4th)
The CARIFTA Games were expanded in 1985 from a track and field event to include six sports, swimming being one of them. The competition is made up of athletes between 13 and 19 years of age from the 18 Caribbean nations that are members of CARICOM (the Caribbean Community).
At this year's games, "It was very cold and windy in Nassau and very hard on all swimmers, because they swam outdoors," Hutchins said. "Hot chocolate was more popular then any other drinks."
The V.I. swimmers will be competing at a meet in Jamaica in July. Like the CARIFTA Games, it will be an Olympic qualifier and follow all those stringent rules.
At last year's CARIFTA Games, the V.I. team fielded 10 swimmers and collected 11 medals.
Hutchins said 2004 "was for us one of the best CARIFTAs."
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