He might just be a freshman at McKendree University in Lebanon, Illinois, USA, but one of The Bahamas’ top junior swimmers, DaVante Carey, is already swimming record-breaking times and is looking forward to improving on his times going forward.
Carey, a member of the 2019 CARIFTA Swimming Championships team for The Bahamas, put his name on his school’s all-time list in the 50-yard backstroke, recording a school record of 22.42 seconds. He did it at the University of Purdue Invitational back in November. At that same meet, Carey also helped lower the school record in the 200-yard medley relay.
One of the biggest transitions for Carey was the pool length as he is accustomed to swimming long course meters – different from the 50-yard pools in college.
The McKendree Bearcats is a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II school that participates in the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC).
Carey swims under the watchful eyes of Head Coach Jimmy Tierny, and assistant coaches Nathan Townsend and Amanda Siehs.
After a slow start to the season, he said he got better as he progressed.
“My first meet of the season was a little rough seeing that it was a bunch of new things that I had to learn,” Carey said. “Over the past few months, it got easier, and now I am top 10 in the NCAA Division II. I have come a long way so far. I feel like I have more to give in the next few months of the season.”
Carey’s specialty in the pool is the backstroke but this season he has done the freestyle, the butterfly and the individual medley (IM).
His focus heading into the GLVC Championships, set for February 12-15, 2020, is the backstroke and the individual medley races. After that, his focus will be on the NCAA Championships set for March 11-14, 2020.
The Bearcats men’s swimming team is ranked number three nationally in the NCAA Division II, with 115 points. At the top of the table is the University of California San Diego with 120 points. The University of Indianapolis sits between them in second place with 118 points.
Carey made the NCAA Division II ‘B’ cut when he clocked 48.95 seconds in the 100-yard back at the Purdue Invitational. He wants to lower that time to the ‘A’ cut which is 46.91 seconds.
“It feels good seeing that I got it early on in the season so I did not have to worry about trying to get it at a last chance meet. Now, it is just working to go even faster than that and to raise my ranking higher,” Carey said.
He hopes to break more school records and swim faster this season. Carey said he and his coaches will be focusing on the 100 and 200-yard back and the 200-yard IM for the NCAA Championships.
The 17-year-old swimmer said one of the biggest challenges he had was adjusting to the weather coming from a warm climate to a cold climate in Lebanon. He has a few Bahamians to interact with on campus so he does not feel alone.
One of the highlights this year was breaking a 15-year-old national record in the 100 meters (m) backstroke with a quick time of 58.12 seconds in November at the Purdue Invite Long Course Meet. The previous record was held by Chris Vythoulkas – a time of 58.31 that he did at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.
“I was surprised. I don’t want to say that I doubted myself but I really did not think that it was going to happen. I just wanted to give it a shot to the best of my ability. I did it – I was shocked and happy about it. My teammates who stayed back to swim in that meet were excited because they knew it was a record,” Carey said.
That 100m backstroke race was a tough one for him, having swam in preliminaries and finals in a short course meet for three days prior to that race.
“It was a tough race after a three-day meet and swimming seven races, and not swimming in a long course meet for the past three months,” Carey said. “I did not have that much long course training and I feel that if I train in long course a little bit more before a meet, I think I can go a little faster than that.”
For him, having broken Vythoulkas’ long-standing record means that he is on the right track and headed in the right direction. He knows that he has some things to work on to make him go faster.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics’ ‘B’ time is 55.47 seconds.
Next year will be his final year at CARIFTA and Carey said that he will be looking to lower his times, get some CARIFTA records and hopefully lead The Bahamas to its fourth straight CARIFTA swimming championship and sixth in seven years.
At the 2019 REV National Swimming Championships back in June, the aspiring Olympian sped his way into the national books when he swam 26.46 seconds in the 50m backstroke.
Carey had a very busy year. Other than the CARIFTA team, he was a member of the 2019 Central American and Caribbean Amateur Swimming Confederation (CCCAN) Championships team, the 2019 Pan American Games team and the 2019 FINA (International Swimming Federation) World Junior Championships team for The Bahamas. In addition, he helped his local club, Mako Aquatics, claim the 2019 REV National Swimming Championship in June.
The student-athlete made the honor roll in his first semester in college, juggling his studies, swimming nine times per week and going to the gym three times per week.
He is home for the holidays and still practicing with his coach at Mako Aquatics Club, Travano McPhee, as he prepares for the rest of the season.
Carey will return to the pool on January 11, 2020 at the Washington University in St. Louis Meet in O’Fallon, Illinois.