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HomeNewsLocal newsUSVI Athletes Return From CARIFTA With a ‘Double Gold’ and a Bronze

USVI Athletes Return From CARIFTA With a ‘Double Gold’ and a Bronze

Michelle Smith, flanked by her parents, Mireille and Keith Smith. (Source photo by Elisa McKay)

St. Croix athlete Michelle Smith did it again at the CARIFTA Track and Field Championships in Grenada, W.I., where she captured the gold in the Under-20 Girls 400-meter hurdles and 800-meter finals. 

Smith is a 17-year-old senior at Montverde Academy in Florida. This is a third straight “double gold” for the Virgin Islands athlete. She won the girls’ 400-meter hurdles and 800-meter run in the Under-17 in 2022 and won both events in the Under-20 in 2023 at the CARIFTA Track and Field Championships.

“I feel good that I can perform well and represent my country,” Smith said.

Sofia Swindell brought home the bronze for her “first time running under 14 seconds” in the Under-20 Girls 100-meter hurdles. Her 13.95 seconds performance “felt really good.” 

Sofia Swindell wins the bronze medal at CARIFTA 2024. (Submitted photo)

A junior at The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, Swindell also competed in the Under-20 Girls triple jump where she finished 11th and was a fifth-place finish in the Under-20 Girls 200-meter dash. She competed at CARIFTA last year in the Under-17 Girls events. 

“It’s a different environment than I’m used to, but I think it brings out the competitive energy in my PR [personal record] in a good way,” Swindell said.

Swindell plans to compete in the next Virgin Islands Track and Field Federation (VITFF) meet, the World U20 Championships in Peru in August. 

Thomas Crikelair is a junior at Good Hope Country Day School (GHCDS) who competed in the Under-20 Boys 800-meter and 4×4 relay. This was his first CARIFTA experience and he improved his personal record, he said.

“I started running about a year ago and I loved performing at CARIFTA,” Crikelair said. 

It was very loud, very competitive, and I was nervous at first. Once I got in the groove, it was very enjoyable,” he said.

Crikelair feels very accomplished by his CARIFTA experience and hopes to come back stronger next year.

Nathan Langley is a junior at GHCDS. CARIFTA was a first for him and he found it super interesting just to be in the races with the best and to heed the times. He competed in the Under-20 Boys 1,500-meter and the Under-20 Boys 800-meter 4×4 relay.

“In St. Croix, it’s hard to experience distance races. I think it’s important that we go to these meets, because by nature it will boost our times. It’s a great mental boost,” Langley said.

Before the team performed at CARIFTA, Langley thought he had finished his journey with track and field. He didn’t know where else there was to go, he said. “I couldn’t see the next step forward. It’s really nice to witness it outside of St. Croix.” CARIFTA gave him the foresight to see beyond, he said.

From left, Thomas Crikelair, Nathan Langley, Michelle Smith, Mireille Smith, Juvante Hurst and Keith Smith. (Source photo by Elisa McKay)

Juvante Hurst is the team’s youngest athlete. He is a 14-year-old, eighth-grader at the Eulalie River K-8 School. CARIFTA was his first experience, where he competed in the Under-17 Boys 100-meter and 200-meter dash.

“It was a good experience for me. It showed me how much I need to improve and how much I need to practice. I really felt pushed at CARIFTA. There’s not that much of a challenge on St. Croix,” Hurst said.

Hurst has competed in Puerto Rico, Florida, and the Dominican Republic. He will compete next weekend in Puerto Rico where he hopes to break his personal record. He looks forward to continuing with the VITFF. 

Coach Keith Smith told the Source he feels ecstatic. “I feel great for what we have accomplished for such a small country … nation … territory. Coming out in a ranking of number six of 26 countries is remarkable and we can’t take it so lightly. The hard work shows when we are matched up against the biggest countries and still come out as the top six. It says something about the talent we have here in the territory and how these athletes are able to represent us.”

We need people to understand that this is not easy, Smith said. You’re flanked to the left and to the right by Jamaicans every single time. Their culture is track and field, and yet you’re able to beat them, he continued. 

“It says something about Michelle Smith and Sofia Swindell. Bringing home medals is not easy. It’s a test to say you are able to match up with the best in the Caribbean and you’re able to move on to among the best in the world. So, it’s a good place for a testing ground,” Smith said. 

“The experience that the younger athletes received was immeasurable. They were able to see, touch, talk and feel the CARIFTA spirit and understand what it may take for them to get to the next level. Seeing that as a young athlete, they can come back and know that practicing five times a week is not too much. The Jamaicans practice seven times a week and their results show it. This will give them more incentive to work hard, work smart and really dedicate themselves to being on that level.”

Smith continued, “The reward is the investment in yourself, and your athleticism goes a long way in scholarships, NIL endorsements, and a great future.”

For more information, visit the V.I. Track and Field Federation webpage.

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