(L-R) James Sylvester, D’ Andre Blanchand and Jayhan Odlum -Smith. (PHOTO: Anthony De Beauville)

The Rodney Heights Aquatic Centre (RHAC) will host the 20th edition of its International Club Invitational Swim Meet starting today from 5.45 p.m. through to Sunday 14th April 2019 at the Aquatic Centre in Rodney Bay, Gros Islet.

A record 393 swimmers representing 24 swim clubs from the region will compete over the four days and by all indications, this year enthusiasts coming in to take in the showpiece can expect fierce rivalry in the pool, one week ahead of the CARIFTA Swim Championship in Barbados.

The Saint Lucia Aquatic Federation, in accordance with the rules of the international governing body, FINA, has sanctioned this event.

The VOICE spoke to Meet Director/Owner for the RHAC Swim Club Dr. Diane Worrell about this year’s event. With a record number of swimmers coming in and the level of competition, Dr. Worrel shared the logistics over the four days of competition.

“This is our 20th Invitational this year,” she noted. “We are in full gear and ready to go with a few final preparations to make.  A total of 23 clubs will be with us with a combined total of 393 swimmers competing. We are close to our goal this year of 400 swimmers; we thought we would have 400, but we are right on our mark.”

“RHAC has been preparing for weeks now because our preparation had to be done prior to the MIAGE, so that the MIAGE would be able to take place; so we were fully onboard in getting them going and the staff has come together to make it happen,” she said. “We are going to have a lot of officials on deck for our event because of the number of swimmers that we have.”

Countries represented are Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Guadeloupe, Grenada, Martinique, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and host Saint Lucia.

Dr Worrell said, “We are making preparations for the liaison between the French and our English speaking neighbours due to the fact that the meet is going to move a lot faster compared to the MIAGE because of the number of swimmers.”

In terms of referees: from Antigua and Barbuda Edith Clashing; Hilroy Emanus from Saint Lucia and Meet Director, Dr. Diana Worrell.

(l-r) Caitlin Polius, Fayth Jeffery, Anyka Holder and Jasmine Steide. (Photo: Anthony De Beauville) 

Dr. Worrell would like the public to come out and see what swimming at that level is all about. “It’s all about development,” she said. “We are swimming a lot of our events as Open events. The Under-10 will be swimming together; U 11/U12 and 13 and Over to give everybody competition in their age groups, so we are not swimming as strictly age groups.  You may have an outstanding 8-year-old who’s swimming with U8s, he or she will get to compete with a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old to push the time to allow them to get their better time out of this championship.”

With RHAC just one week ahead of the CARIFTA Swim Championship in Barbados, this reporter asked Dr. Worrell whether she expected any records to go tumbling along the way.

“Yes,” she said enthusiastically. “CARIFTA is soon after RHAC’s 20th Invitational and what we are looking for is to give our CARIFTA swimmers a chance to have good competition before they get to Barbados. Some of the swimmers that will be competing with us from the other Islands will be leaving here and heading straight to Barbados for CARIFTA; so it’s a first-hand fight RHAC, and it is going to give swimmers the edge to go over and swim hard and get some good results.”

Some of the Saint Lucian princesses that will be on show for the next four days. (PHOTO: Anthony De Beauville)

A number of sponsors have given the organizers in-kind support. Others are trying to assist financially so they can have live coverage with Winners TV. Dr. Worrell said, “FLOW is a huge sponsor for us this year and hopefully our telecommunication will be up so everybody would have WIFI.”

The official opening ceremony will be held on Friday morning from 9.00 a.m. and according to Dr. Worrell she has a few surprises for the participating teams during that time.

“The RHAC Invitational has moved from being a swim meet to a championship,” Dr. Worrell said. “There is nowhere else you would see this number of young swimmers come together for the next four days to display their talent. It’s all about the support they need to move on to the next level.”

She warned fans against pressuring swimmers as this is a low-pressure meet to allow them to be with friends and in competition.

“We are developing friendship here that would allow the swimmers to have those same friends as they grow in the sport,” she noted. “Over the years we found these same swimmers that come to Saint Lucia are the ones that will move on and compete at CARIFTA and higher level competitions representing their respective countries. That’s the kind of friendship I want to foster; that’s the kind of competition I want to continue to run here at the RHAC.”

Representing the various clubs on Island our boys will go all out for a podium finish. (PHOTO: Anthony De Beauville)

Meanwhile, Team Saint Lucia for the CARIFTA Swim Championship in Barbados will be in the thick of things representing their respective clubs – Naekeisha Louis, Karic Charles, Naima Hazell (Lightning Aquatic); Ziv Reynolds, Mikali Charlemagne (Sharks); Caitlin Polius, Trisan Dorville, Terrel Monplaisir, Jayhan Odlum – Smith and D’ Andre Blanchard (Seajays). The above names are just some of the local swimmers that will be in action.

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