Keen battle between Nero, Akor for 'UWI SPEC' title
Top Trinidad and Tobago female distance runner Tonya Nero will be looking to claim the Women's title when the Ninth UWI SPEC half marathon sets off from the UWI Sports and Physical Education Centre (SPEC) Gymnasium in St Augustine on Sunday from 6 a.m.
Nero registered a new national half marathon mark of one hour 15 minutes and 13 seconds at the World Half Marathon Championships in Kavarna, Bulgaria on October 5, which is the best form on hand on the women's side coming into Sunday's event.
However, the Kenyan-born USA runner Mary Akor, who won the race in 2009 race, might want to have a say in the final outcome.
Besides Akor, Nero will have to contend with Kenya's Judy Kimuje, who was third last year 1:23.06, and 2008 winner Alika Morgan (Guyana).
Nero will lead a local contingent that includes Celine Lestrade, Janelle Nedd and Lynette Luces who, will all be looking to finish in the top ten.
On the men's side, defending champion George Towett will be going for his third title.
The 27-year-old runner won last year and in 2007 and will be looking to maintain the Kenyan dominance in recent versions of the 13.1 mile race. The US-based athlete will be lining up against six others of the top ten finishers from last year.
Cleveland Forde (Guyana), Stephen Tanui (Kenya), Richard Jones, Curtis Cox, Matthey Hagley and Jules La Rode (T&T) were third, fourth, fifth, sixth, eight and ninth in last year's edition of the race.
The race starts at the UWI SPEC, then continues onto the traffic-free Priority Bus Route (PBR) to La Resource Junction in D'Abadie before doubling back to UWI SPEC.
The course will be complete with markers and water stops at every mile for the 1,000 athletes expected from around the world, including the Caribbean, USA, Latin America and Europe.
According to a media release, UWI SPEC will combine with the Ministry of Health to provide screenings for certain chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs) to on-lookers during the race.
First Citizens Bank and the Ministry of Sports are the major sponsors of the race. The runners will be competing for prize monies totaling $135,000. Towett won last year's race 1:06.42, missing the course record of 1:05:07 set in 2006. —Mark Pouchet