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Natalie Kleemann-Day: Virgin Islands’ Pride and Future in Women’s Basketball

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In the vast realm of international basketball, the Virgin Islands has been consistently punching above its weight. Leading the charge is Natalie Kleemann-Day, the stalwart athlete whose recent exploits saw her team clinch victory at the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in El Salvador.

At 33, Kleemann-Day is a testament to the rich reservoir of talent that the Virgin Islands possesses. “Considering our population size, the achievements we have garnered across women’s basketball is unparalleled,” she confidently remarks.

Kleemann-Day’s basketball journey is rich with international experiences. Over the past 11 years, she has played in Europe, Australia, China, and Puerto Rico. Before turning professional, she showcased her talent at Howard University and the University of Portland, further sharpening her skills while pursuing a degree in international business and marketing.

Her love affair with basketball began in her adolescent years. Serving as a camp counselor, she found solace in shooting hoops whenever she got some free time. “There was something magical about those moments. Just me, the ball, and the net,” she nostalgically recollects.

Her evenings were consumed by studying the iconic moves of Michael Jordan, whose cassette tapes she watched ardently. “My initial proficiency was in shooting. That was all I knew, so I began my high school journey trying out for the JV team,” she reminisces.

Today, she acknowledges the profound personal and professional growth she has undergone. She credits her evolution to self-awareness and understanding the intricate dance between pain and ego. “To truly excel, one needs to stay rooted in the present and embrace every experience. It’s made me a better individual, athlete, mother, and partner,” Kleemann-Day articulates.

With a lineage tracing back to the Virgin Islands through her mother’s side, she’s worn the USVI Women’s Basketball jersey with pride for 13 years. “Every year, we set new benchmarks. Initially, we stunned skeptics by qualifying for major tournaments. Then, we went a step further by clinching medals. Now? We’re at the pinnacle, winning them,” she enthusiastically shares.

She envisions these triumphs as symbols of hope for budding athletes in the U.S. Virgin Islands. In her view, the team serves as a beacon, illuminating a path for every girl who dreams of achieving greatness in basketball. “The Virgin Islands’ representation is strong and diverse, spanning from Junior Colleges, NCAA tiers, international circuits, to even the WNBA,” she emphasizes.

Having experienced the high tide of her basketball journey, Kleemann-Day feels a deep-seated urge to contribute back to the sport. “It’s time to guide, mentor, and stand as a pillar of support for my teammates and future players,” she reveals. This sentiment extends to her aspirations for the National Team, where she hopes to see them on the global stage, competing in events like the World Cup and even the Olympics.

Outside the basketball court, Kleemann-Day is a multifaceted individual. Currently, she’s pursuing a master’s degree in engineering, fueled by her fascination for innovative environmental technologies. Professionally, she’s entrenched in the financial tech space, working as a technical support engineer. Her leisure hours are spent reading or cycling, with the latter being a sport she jests she’d pursue if not for basketball.

In sum, Natalie Kleemann-Day isn’t just a star athlete but also a shining beacon for the Virgin Islands, demonstrating the vast potential waiting to be unleashed on the global stage.

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31st International Optimist Regatta Sets Sail in St. Thomas

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The 31st International Optimist Regatta (IOR) has officially begun, bringing together young sailing talents from around the globe. Hosted by the St. Thomas Yacht Club (STYC), the event kicks off with the TOTE Clinic from June 10 to June 12, followed by the TOTE Team Race on June 13, and culminating with the regatta from June 14 to June 16.

V.I. Dept. of Tourism Commissioner Joseph Boschulte highlighted the event’s significance. “We are thrilled to welcome young sailors and their families to the U.S. Virgin Islands for the 31st International Optimist Regatta,” he remarked. “This event not only showcases the incredible talent of our youth but also brings together a vibrant community from around the world to experience the natural beauty and hospitality of St. Thomas.”

This year, over 100 sailors aged 8 to 15 from the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and various U.S. states will compete in the regatta. They will race in 8-foot long single-sail Optimists, vying for top honors in a competition that has historically been a stepping stone to advanced sailing events, including the Olympics.

Significantly, the regatta serves as preparation for the upcoming Optimist North American Championships (OPTINAM) scheduled for July 13-20 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Participants include U.S. Optimist National Team members such as Wills Gandy, Cassady Lorentzen, and Alexander Montagu, who bring their extensive experience from competitions across the U.S.

Agustin ‘Argy’ Resano, USVI National Team Coach, underscored the event’s relevance to OPTINAM. “The IOR is a perfect setup for OPTINAM in Puerto Rico due to the similarities of the venues,” he explained, noting the unique challenges of local sailing conditions, such as navigating through seagrass.

The event also features a comprehensive coaching clinic with instructors from around the world, enhancing both competitive and cooperative aspects of the sport. The TOTE Maritime Team Race introduces a team-based dynamic, fostering camaraderie and strategic teamwork among participants.

Awards and recognitions will be presented on the final day, with trophies for top performers in various age categories and special awards for sportsmanship and outstanding individual achievements. Supported by a host of local and international sponsors, the event promises a well-organized and memorable experience for all attendees.

For more information, participants and enthusiasts are encouraged to visit the St. Thomas Yacht Club website.

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Carnival Races Success Sets Stage for Pre-Emancipation Day Event on June 30

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The recent Carnival horse races at the Clinton E. Phipps racetrack have left a lasting impression, with organizers and participants reflecting on the success and camaraderie of the event. David Edmonds, a representative of Southland Gaming, expressed his delight, saying, “I’m still smiling ear to ear as I look back on photos and talk with everybody about it.”

During a meeting of the St. Thomas/St. John horse racing committee, Edmonds provided an overview of the May 3 event, highlighting the intense preparation that ensured all promised infrastructure was ready for the first official race day in eight years. This effort included a round-the-clock work schedule leading up to race day.

Attention is now shifting to Phase 3 of the project. Edmonds mentioned that after a brief recovery period, the team has resumed work. The next steps involve completing tasks such as finishing touches to the grandstand and jockey and vet areas. Following this, construction will begin on the equipment storage facilities for the isolation barn, with work expected to start in June. Subsequent phases include building the secondary and main barns.

Calvert White, Commissioner of the Department of Sports Parks and Recreation, who acted as the race promoter, described the experience as one of the most challenging of his 17-year tenure. Despite skepticism from some in the community, White felt vindicated by the event’s success, estimating attendance at between 5,500 and 6,000 people. “It honestly went better than I envisioned it going, knowing all the things that had to be done leading up to the opening day,” White said. The search for a permanent promoter is ongoing, with a request for qualifications being drafted.

Looking ahead, industry stakeholders are eagerly anticipating the pre-Emancipation Day races on June 30. Hugo Hodge, chairman of the V.I. Horse Racing Commission, announced several planned races, including the mile and 16th Lieutenant Governor’s Cup and a mile Administrator’s Cup race for mares and fillies. Entries will close on June 21, with gate positions determined on June 24.

Finally, Shaine Gaspard, Southland Gaming’s chief operating officer, noted that three horsemen have yet to collect their winnings. He urged Augustus Raleigh, Lesmore Smith, and Rafael Braithwaite to submit the necessary paperwork to process their payments, while confirming that all other payments were processed promptly.

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USVI Athletes Shine Brightly at Recent Competitions; Eduardo Garcia Secures Olympic Spot

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Eduardo Garcia, the Virgin Islands’ standout athlete, shattered the VI record in the Half Marathon by clocking a stunning 1:03:53 in Istanbul, Turkey, on April 28. This remarkable performance has earned him a spot at the 2024 Olympic Games, where he is set to compete in the Marathon on August 10.

On the high school track, Michelle Smith has been dominating her season, as evidenced by her recent haul of gold medals at the Florida High Schools District Championships on April 30. Smith opened her day with a winning 5.38-meter long jump, followed by a victory in the 100m hurdles with a time of 14.31 seconds. She didn’t stop there; she triumphed in the 400m hurdles, finishing in 57.56 seconds, and anchored her 4×400 relay team to gold with a time of 3:41.28. Currently ranked in the top 40 globally for the 400m hurdles, Smith is a strong contender for Olympic qualification.

Nicola Peters also made headlines with her performance at the Alabama High Schools District Championships on April 26 and 27, where she earned silver medals in both the 100m and 200m events, recording times of 12.27 and 24.84 seconds, respectively. Peters rounded off her achievements with another silver in the 4x100m relay alongside her teammates from Sparkman High. She is now set to compete at the Alabama State Championships on May 13.

In collegiate athletics, Rachel Conhoff, a graduate student at Indiana State University, broke her own Virgin Islands national record in the 1500m event at the Bill Hayes Invitational in Bloomington, Indiana, on May 3. She posted a record-breaking time of 4:26.72, which is also the fifth fastest in the university’s history.

Additionally, sprinter Sofia Swindell has earned her spot at the Under 20 World Championships in Lima, Peru, this August. Competing at the Ed Poreda Invitational in Lawrenceville, NJ, Swindell clinched first in the 100m hurdles with a swift 14.20 seconds and set a personal best of 11.96 seconds in the 100m dash, taking home the gold.

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