Earlier this month, Team Jamaica placed second in the 2022 CARIFTA Swimming and Open Water Championship in Christ Church, Barbados, finishing just behind a powerhouse team from the Bahamas. In the four-day competition, Jamaica’s 33 swimmers collected a record 17 gold medals, 25 silver, and 22 bronze.
What does any of this have to do with Cardigan? One of the team’s youngest swimmers, Adlai Nixon ’25, has been training at White River Junction’s Upper Valley Aquatic Center (UVAC) and attending Cardigan Mountain School. Adlai contributed to the team’s success as the third leg of the boys ages 11-12 4x100 and 4x50-meter freestyle relay teams, helping to secure silver medals in both.
“It was an incredible experience for him,” says Adlai’s mom Hilary. “I was impressed with his discipline throughout the championship, and he set many personal bests. He came away very motivated to return next year and win an individual medal. He knows it will take a lot of work, but he’s willing to put in the time.”
Hard work and long hours aren’t foreign concepts to Adlai, who has been competing since he was six. In fact, he’s joined by his cousins, Cole and Cameron Brown ’25, who are also students at Cardigan and are competing on the UVAC team as well. They all got their start on the Swimaz Aquatic Swim Club in Jamaica before coming to Cardigan in the fall of 2021.
“I believe in the effectiveness of junior boarding schools,” says Cole and Cameron’s mom, Eleanor Brown, who splits her time between Jamaica and State College, PA, where she is a law professor at Penn State University. “Because of Covid, we wanted to find a school where classes would be held in-person. George Davis P’22 is a close friend and he encouraged me to check out Cardigan. When we figured out the boys would be able to swim, we decided to try to make it work.”
“Making it work” has required a great deal of travel for the Nixons and Browns, who took turns this winter residing in New Hampshire in order to make the trips back and forth between UVAC and Cardigan for the boys’ practices five days a week. At least one of them was also always on hand for the boys’ swim meets on the weekends. When the parents had conflicts, Director of Admissions Chip Audett P’16 also helped out with the driving.
“It’s worked out better than we had imagined,” says Hilary. “The UVAC team has been very welcoming and the coach is excellent. Ninety percent of any sport is about an athlete’s connection with their coach, and the boys have really built a strong relationship with their UVAC coach. It’s one of the best programs in New England.”
“The primary driver for me has been that Adlai enjoys it,” says Javette Nixon, Adlai’s father. “He does well at the level at which he is competing, and we want to give him the best opportunity to succeed.”
For Adlai, success has been in the shorter sprint races, while Cameron has the stamina and endurance to excel in the mid-distance races and Cole favors the backstroke. This winter with the UVAC team, all the boys qualified for regionals, and Cameron and Adlai qualified for New England age group championships, which will be held at Brown University in July. Cameron and Adlai, representing Jamaica, are also strong contenders for the Goodwill Games that will be held in Trinidad and Tabago in August.
“I’m glad we’ve been able to support these boys,” says Cardigan’s Director of Athletics Ryan Frost P’25. “This is exactly the competitive opportunity our ACE (Athletic Commitment Exemption) program was designed to accommodate. It’s been exciting to follow their progress and hear about their successes, both on campus and at swim meets.”
“It was a little hard at first when we didn’t know any of our teammates,” admits Cole. “But once we adjusted to our new coach’s training methods, it was fun to meet a lot of new friends and compete in bigger meets.”
Adlai agrees: “It was sometimes hard to miss classes and meals, but our teachers were really supportive.”
For Adlai the support of his teachers was doubly important this spring when he traveled to Barbados for the CARIFTA Swimming Championships. “The schedule was incredibly hectic,” says Hilary. “They started at 5:30 am and had four hours of preliminary races in the morning. The afternoon finals sometimes didn’t end until 10 or 11 o’clock in the evening. There wasn’t a lot of time for Adlai to do his schoolwork, so we were really grateful for all the time his teachers put in when he returned to school, making sure that he caught up on his assignments.”
For now, all three boys are back on campus and enjoying all that spring brings to The Point. Last week all three boys competed in the Charles C. Gates Invention & Innovation Competition, and they have also added new sports to their repertoire; Cameron and Adlai are playing on the Fourths Lacrosse Team, while Cole is on the Reserve Tennis Team.
“Lacrosse has been really different because it’s a team sport,” says Cameron. “It’s been really fun, though, and not stressful. For swimming I’m always nervous for the next race.”
That next race won’t be until late in the summer, but before long they’ll be back in the pool, swimming laps, putting in the training and working towards their next personal best.