By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
IT WAS two different events here, but the same result for Mitch Guirard, while Maria Pawkowitch made her debut a spectacular one.
The American elite distance runners lived up to their expectations at the Roadmasters’ second annual Bahamas Half Marathon as they were crowned the champions in the 13.1 mile race at Arawak Cay yesterday morning.
The event also featured a 10-kilometre race that saw Bahamian residents Will Fairbairn and Melina Andorra emerge as the respective male and female champions.
Returning for the first time since he won the 2011 Bahamas Marathon’s half marathon race, Girard surged to the front and never relinquished his lead in the early morning race that traversed around the western portion of the island in one hour, 17 minutes and 26 seconds.
Girard, a 28-year-old resident of West Palm Beach, Florida, had to hold off a strong challenge from Grand Bahamian Delroy Booth, the first Bahamian male finisher in 1:24.16.
“I like the Bahamas. It’s a nice getaway for the weekend. The beaches are nice, it’s a nice relaxing atmosphere,” he said. “The course was nice. It was gorgeous along the beach. I really liked it. I was running by myself for most of the way, but the guy on the bike helped me along very well.”
For Booth, he was just pleased to be able to finish where he did.
“The race was pretty good. From the start, I was right on the pace where I wanted to be,” he said. “I saw the lead runner, so I was just focusing on him and using him as a gauge as I just kept running.”
Pawkowitch, back in the Bahamas for the first time since she made her initial visit here as a tourist, took the female crown as she stopped the clock in 1:34.07. The 31-year-old resident of New York had to hold off a strong surge by Bahamian middle distance runner Crystal Strachan.
The 28-year-old Strachan was back home for a two-month training in Africa. She trailed Pawkowitch through the tape in 1:34.20 for second place overall.
“It was humid. I’m not used to the conditions. It’s about 50 degrees in New Jersey right now,” Pawkowitch said. “This was totally different for me. But this was my first race back since I had an injury. So I really didn’t want to push it.”
After leading the race for most of the way, with about four miles to go, Pawkowitch said she realised that Strachan was gaining some momentum, so she had to take it to another gear.
“She made me work for it,” Pawkowitch said.
Strachan, who spent the past two months in Africa training with Oneil Williams, said it was the hardest race she ever ran.
“Basically, I was doing it for distance training for the 800 and 1,500 metres,” she said. “I was just excited to see where I’m at. I saw the woman ahead of me, but I was just getting used to the pace. I’m just so happy about what I did.”
There was a clean sweep by Bahamians in the 10K race as 35-year-old Will Fairbairn topped the male field in 41.30 and Melina Andorrae, just 13, was the female winner in 53.37.
Dominique McPhee, Cadeau Augustin and Ronald Kemp represented the ‘No Limit Track Club’ that won the team title in 1:23.26.
“The first leg was great. I had some competition from the guy from the Defence Force, but I was the first at the exchange at Sandals,” said McPhee, a 17-year-old graduate of CV Bethel.
Augustin, the 15-year-old 11th grader at RM Bailey, said his “second leg was solid. Our coach David Ferguson was running the full race and so we wanted to make sure that he didn’t beat us.”
And Kemp, the 16-year-old student of Galilee Academy, said when he got the baton, all he had to do “was maintain the position that I got it from my team-mate.”
There was a large presence of competitors from the Bahamas Special Olympics and members of the People’s Republic of China, who are here working on the Baha Mar The Bahamian Riviera project.
Shavonne Blades, one of the organisers, said they worked hard all year to get the event to where it is where they ended up doubling the amount of participants from 300-plus last year to more than 600 this time around.
“I couldn’t ask for a better day. We had one or two minor incidents with the runners, but everything came together,” she said. “We’ve been planning since January and so I’m very, very pleased with the results.”
Blades said because of what they achieved, they intend to make this the most sought after 10K race for both local and foreign competitors to compete in every year.