By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
Two new champions were crowned yesterday at Arawak Cay as O’Neil Williams, making his debut, and Suzannah Eneas, improving on her first appearance last year, finished as the top competitors in the Roadmasters’ fourth annual Bahamas Half Marathon.
Both earned a hefty $1,000 in prize money offered by the organising committee and their sponsors.
Back from his training in Kenya, 33-year-old Williams clocked one hour, 21 minutes and 37 seconds to outclass the men’s field that included his local training partner Mackey Williams and Grand Bahama arch-rival, Delroy Boothe. Eneas, 38, improved on her fifth place finish in her first appearance last year to win in her second appearance in 1:35:42 as she surpassed her fifth place finish in her debut a year ago, running 1:47.
Williams said it was good to be competing on the local scene again.
“It was pretty good,” Williams said after the victory. “I didn’t get much sleep last night. I just came out today. I wasn’t concentrating on the time. I just wanted to win.”
The field, according to Williams, was a pretty good one with some rising young competitors coming up.
But he said he’s looking forward to going back to Africa to continue his training in January, if he can secure the necessary funding because he said it’s been difficult getting the government and the governing body for the sport, the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations, to fully support him in his endeavour.
2014 champion Mackey Williams, also back in action on the local scene after a brief hiatus, said he just started his training a couple months ago with O’Neil Williams.
“Coming back for my first race, I had to work a little harder, but I kept my constant pace,” Mackey Williams said.
“David Ferguson was encouraging me to go on, but I want to first give thanks and praise to our Almighty God. He made it possible for me to be here.”
During the race, Mackey Williams said O’Neal Williams pulled away from him at the third mile and that has given him the incentive to go back to training to regroup as he prepares to go full time into competing next year.
For Eneas, she only started running last year so to come from fifth to first place in her second time around was a remarkable accomplishment.
“Great conditions, nice breeze and excellent course with no bridges,” she said. “The cyclists were really helpful, taking care of the traffic with the police motorbikes, so that really made it a great race. I really enjoyed it.”
Comparing last year to this year, Eneas said she was able to improve because she’s now getting used to competing.
“I spent the last year getting consistent with it,” said Eneas.
And now that she has been bitten by the running bug, Eneas said she’s looking for the next event to compete in.
“This is a fantastic event to have in the Bahamas. We don’t have to travel to compete. We can do them right at home,” she said. “So I will definitely be back next year. But I will be doing my first full marathon at Marathon Bahamas in January. So wish me luck. I’m looking for it. It’s the next big race.”
There was also a 5K and 10K race during the competition.
Gabriella Thompson, 17, took the ladies’ title in 26:38 and Tyrese Kemp, 17, was the first male finisher in 28:58.
And in the 10K race, Diane Murray-Fowler, 47, won the ladies’ title in 51:11 and Germany’s visitor Alexander Schaumburg, 33, won the men’s title in 41.29.
The top relay team was ‘No Limit,’ which comprised of the combination of Glenroy McKenzie, Jackson Ozias and Marcus Williams, who clocked 1:29.33 for the win.
Winners in the various age groups for the half marathon are as follows: Miranda Thompson, under-19 female in 1:50.58; Ryan Bethell Jr, under-19 male in 1:26.30; Stephanie Deroo, 20-29 female in 2:15:15; Jonathan Balan, 20-29 male in 2:15:06; Anna Zywiolek, 30-39 female in 1:47:56; Joya DeGregory, 40-49 female in 1:54:41; Mackey Williams, 40-49 male in 1:23:41; Kathryn DeSouza,50-59 female in 1:52:53; Carlton Russell, 50-59 male in 1:48:23 and Terry Benjamin, 60-69 male in 2:41:56.
Charles Johnson, president of the Bahamas Roadmasters running club, said the event lived up to its advanced billing and they met their goal in terms of the registration, even though they closed out earlier than anticipated because of the passing of Hurricane Matthew.
“The event was well organised and everybody came out and performed,” Johnson stated. “We’ve had for the first time, three Bahamians who led in the half marathon, O’Neil Williams, Mackey Williams and Delroy Boothe.
“Even though we had some international runners participate, it’s an indication that the local runners are taking distance running seriously and we can only see this Bahamas Half Marathon growing from strength to strength.”
Bahamas Roadmasters features more than 70 members, all of whom would have ran in marathons around the world. They are hoping to enhance the sport here, but Johnson said the only way they can do it is by putting on events such as the half marathon so that they can sensitise the public to what they are doing.
Part of the proceeds will be donated to the Crisis Centre and Lupus 242.