Four-time Jamaican Olympian Alia Atkinson, who trains with South Florida Aquatic Club, dominated the split-site Southern Sectional Championships with four gold medals.
The meet was contested at two sites – Coral Springs and Sarasota – from February 11-14. Results were combined for overall rankings and team scoring.
Site One, located in Sarasota, Florida, had the better performances in the distance events, while Site Two, in Coral Springs, led the way in the sprint races.
On Friday, Atkinson showed that she is rounding back into Olympic form in the 100m breaststroke, her best Olympic event.
With the Tokyo Olympics about five months away, the 32-year-old won the 100m breaststroke in 1:08.46, following two gold medals on Thursday’s opening day.
Atkinson touched the wall in the 100m breaststroke well ahead of Sarasota Sharks’ Gracie Weyant (1:11.27) and Blue Dolphin’s Taylor Grabenhorst (1:12.05).
Atkinson’s 1:08.46 was four seconds faster than she swam at a long course meet last weekend and is her fastest long course swim since the FINA Champions Series in January 2020.
In the heats, Atkinson was almost four seconds faster than the combined field posting the number one time of 1:08.71. Her first 50m of 31.65 was good enough to have topped the field in the individual 50m event. She had won that event in 31.45. In the final, the race could have been called after the first lap as she crushed the field with a split of 31.27, faster than her winning time in the 50. No other swimmer could keep up with her punishing early pace as no one broke 33 seconds.
Atkinson returned on Sunday to win the 100m freestyle. After easing her way to the final with a time of 56.45 (split time 26.77), Atkinson dipped under the 56-second barrier in the final to post 55.96 (split time 26.87). Micayla Cronk of Blue Dolphins finished second in 56.06 and Aspen Gersper of Saint Andrews came third in 56.24.
Atkinson has only been faster on two other occasions. At the 2018 Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Barranquilla, Colombia where she placed fourth and in 2017 at the same venue where set the national record of 55.35 at the Senior Champs meet.
Atkinson’s two gold medals on Thursday’s opening day came in the 50m butterfly and the 50m breaststroke.
In the 50m butterfly at Coral Springs, Atkinson was in a league of her own as she stopped the clock in 26.61. Second overall went to Olivia Peoples of the Bolles Sharks in Sarasota and Kathryn Giuffdra of Haines City Tritons in Coral Springs, who both clocked 27.73.
That swim by Atkinson represents her first time under 27 seconds since 2018. It is also her third fastest ever performance and puts her national record of 26.54 in jeopardy. In 2018 at the CAC Games, Atkinson lowered the national standard to 26.54 in the heats. She returned to post the second-fastest time of her life of 26.60 to win the gold. Interestingly, Atkinson swam her first sub-27-second time and a then national record of 26.82 at this same meet in 2017. And again she was the only swimmer under the 27-second mark.
In the 50m breaststroke, Atkinson easily won in a time of 31.45. Second went to Marcela Scaramuzza of Trinity Prep in 33.10 and Taylor Grabenhorst finished third in 33.15.
Atkinson easily demolished her 2021 season-best of 33.47 set last Saturday in Plantation. With the 50m breaststroke victory, the national record holder extends her unbeaten streak in the event in the USA to eight races. Since 2017, the Jamaican has turned back all challengers on US soil in the event. She is the only CARIFTA region swimmer to make the World Championship final in the event.
Meanwhile, Jamaica’s World Championship representative Keanan Dols finished third in the 200m freestyle relay on Friday. His Gator Swim Club recorded a total time of 1:36.20 with a leadoff leg of 25.20 . He was 22nd overall with a time of 57.70.
Jamaica’s Morgan Cogle, representing Jupiter Dragons Swim Team, recorded a personal-best time of 1:00.45 in the 100m freestyle, also on Friday. She touched in 1:00.49 to place 39th overall. Cogle’s relay team was 11th in the 200m medley in 2:06.32 with her backstroke split of 32.91.
In the 200m freestyle, the Dragons Swim Team placed sixth with a time of 1:50.01. Cogle had split of 27.54 on the third leg.
In the 200m freestyle, Cogle recorded 2:12.66 in the final, just missing her personal best of 2:12.31. Her best time in the 50m freestyle was 28.31, again just off her best time of 28.21. In the backstroke events, the Jamaican registered times of 1:10.87 and 2:34.49 for the 100 and 200 races respectively.
Emily MacDonald, representing the Boles Sharks, on Friday sprinted to 26.94 in the 50m freestyle for 10th overall. In the longer 100m sprint, the Jamaican was 21st in 59.23.