Tonya Nero will be seeking to improve her national record mark of 1 hr 15 minutes 13 seconds when she lines up in the ninth UWI SPEC Half Marathon which gets underway at UWI Sports and Physical Education Centre (SPEC) in St Augustine at 6 am.
The multiple national record holder is competing in her second UWI half marathon and warmed up for the event by winning the South American 10k Guyana leg in Georgetown, Guyana, last Sunday.
The North American, Central American and Caribbean (NACAC) cross-country silver medallist said the her aim going in the race was to come out victorious. “My goal is to win. It will be a tactical race as the conditions here in Trinidad are usually hot and humid. I am hoping that with the 6 am start the weather will be cool.”
The Wichita University graduate said she has been training with her brothers Saldino and Matteus. The 23-year-old lowered her national half marathon mark to 1.15:13 in finishing 27th at last month’s World Championships in Kavarna, Bulgaria. Nero said competing against the best runners in the world was a good experience. “From the race I learnt to run my own race. I am not at the level where I can go out and run with the rest. I have to stick to my plan.”
She returned to her alma mater in Kansas, USA, earlier this year to train. Her chances of winning tomorrow were given a boost with the withdrawal of 2009 champion Mary Akor. The Nigerian-born American will not be able to arrive in time for the race.
Anthony Harford of All Sport Promotions told Trinidad Guardian that Akor asked to have her flight changed to arrive on Friday instead of Saturday (today) as originally booked: “She called and asked for the change but we could not do so in time to have her here.”
Another notable absentee is 2008 winner Alika Morgan (Guyana). Last year’s winner Leah Kirjen of Kenya will not be competing as well.
Another local hopeful, Celine Lestrade, is looking to go under 1:30. Lestrade added that she is hoping to be fully recovered after her Chicago Marathon run where she clocked a personal best of 3:19.
Among the men, defending champion George Towett has been confirmed to compete as well US-based local Ronnie Holassie. Both are expected to arrive later today.
Veteran Pamenos Ballantyne (St Vincent and the Grenadines) and last year’s third-place finisher Cleveland Forde of Guyana will not make the trip to Trinidad. According to All Sport, Ballantyne was selected to represent his country at a race in Guadeloupe while Forde will compete for his Guyana Defence Force team in a track meet in Guyana.
Curtis Cox is hoping to dip under the 1:10 barrier. “I have not done so in a long time in this year. My training has been coming along and I was fourth in Guyana last week.” Richard Jones, Matthew Hagley and Jules LaRode are among the top locals who are expected to battle for the top prizes. The winners will share $135,000 in prize money while a further US$1,000 will be on offer for a new course record (existing record—men: 1:05:06.9, women: 1:12:07.6). There will be special prizes for the top university, UWI student, UWI staff,
UWI St Augustine, First Citizen competitors. The top local athletes will also be crowned the NAAA Champions.
The race starts outside UWI SPEC buildings on St Augustine Circular Road and continues up to the Priority Bus Route up to La Resource in D’Abadie and back down to UWI SPEC for the finish. The bus route will be closed off to vehicular traffic during the race. The 13.1 mile run will be electronically timed and is certified by the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS). It is also accredited by International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) and sanctioned by National Associations of Athletic Adminstration (NAAA).
First Citizen’s Bank and the Ministry of Sports are the major sponsors of this year’s race.
Course record US$1,000
University Student /UWI Student/UWIStaff/UWi-St. Augustine/NAAA