HISTORY was made on Sunday when the UWI-SPEC international half marathon celebrated a return, with TT’s Nicholas Romany and former France half-marathon champion Cecelia Mobuchon, winning the overall and female overall categories, respectively.
The half marathon saw a record number of entrants, with a new element in the 5K adding hundreds more to the race.
The 5K, which began at 5.15 am, saw ten-year-old prodigy Chennai Moore adding another glistening accomplishment by winning the overall female category and finishing 17th overall in a race featuring over 700 runners.
Moore clocked 22 minutes, 12 seconds, with her nearest challenger in the women’s category, Wendy D’Arbadie, finishing in 23:49. Asma Charles finished third in 24:14.
George Smith won the overall 5K, clocking 17:21. Kurwin Phillip (19:34), Kris Deonanan (19:50), Oneal Paponette (20:33) and Joshaun Collier (20:36) placed second to fifth.
Mobuchon, running in her first UWI half-marathon, dominated the female overall category, finishing in 1:18:45. A near 13-minute gap separated Mobuchon and runner-up, TT’s Samantha Shukla, while Chantel Le Maitre clocked 1:41:49 for a third place finish.
Nicholas Romany, 29, experiencing the best year of his young career to date, won his first UWI half-marathon, clocking 1:11:43.
Romany beat Kenya’s Alex Ekesa by eight seconds in another head-to-head battle– an increasingly frequent feature of local distance races.
Romany’s clubmate Tafari Waldron placed third in 1:13:08, followed by Collin Pereira (1:14:17) and Christopher Mitchell (1:15:27)
Speaking after the race, Romany said he was grateful for the win but suggested neither he nor his friendly rival Ekesa were at their best.
“I felt like I could (have run) at least two minutes faster,” said Romany, a mark he will aim for next year.
He explained, “I wouldn’t call today’s race ‘outstanding’ or anything like that. I held back in the race. He (Alex) was sick, so coming into this race, he wasn’t 100 per cent and he wasn’t his best.”
Romany and Ekesa were practically stride for stride for the duration of the race only for the former to pull away at the final stretch.
The two have been involved in many races this year with both enjoying wins. Just this year, Romany secured victories in the Chinatown 7K, Caricom 10K, CIBC 10K and the Venture 5K, with Ekesa enjoying success at the Arima Half Marathon, Palo Seco Credit Union road race, North Oropouche 5K, among other races.
While Romany was able to celebrate his first UWI title, the lion’s share of plaudits, he admitted, perhaps belonged to Moore, a primary school student.
“I see that she has a lot of talent,” Romany said.
“And if in the right hands, I believe she could be the next Tonya Nero. She has the talent; it’s just, moving forward there are things she will learn and she’ll be very good.”
Moore, who was recently featured by Newsday Kids, hopes to represent TT at the Olympics, particularly in the 3,000m distance.
Moore has several wins under her belt, even against far more experienced and decorated runners.
In July, Moore won the Caricom 5K event, clocking 22:04.
Proper coaching and direction, Romany added, is key for a distance runner to reach their full potential.
Romany began running competitively relatively late, at age 22. Now 29, he credits Jason Parris, his coach, for his impressive form over the last couple years.
Parris has coached Romany (and several other notable runners, incuding Waldron and Donnel Francis) for the past five years.
“His coaching is what brought me to the level I am at today, with my (levels of) commitment and consistency.
“He also brings up my training partners to a high level as well, and we are the top athletes in Trinidad (under his guidance).
“With some help from those in power, he can raise the level of distance running in Trinidad.”
Romany improved from his previous performance when the race was last staged in 2019, when he placed eighth in 1:18:29. Ekesa (1:08:40) placed second, behind winner Didimo Sanchezmendoza (1:07:55) from Venezuela.
The marathon race started at the UWI in St Augustine, at 5 am, with runners taking a 13.1-mile journey along the Priority Bus Route, leading to the La Resource Junction in D’Abadie, before returning via the same route. The 5K started 15 minutes later.
The event was hosted by the UWI SPEC in collaboration with the National Association of Athletics Administrations of TT (NAAATT) and the TT Olympic Committee, and is essentially the NAAATT’s official annual half-marathon championship.
It was first held in 2006 and won convincingly by Kenya’s Ernest Kimeli in 1:05:06.
Cash prizes were awarded only to the top five finishers in the overall half marathon. The event, organisers said, will help to provide scholarships for student-athletes.
About 940 runners participated in the half-marathon.
The results and times posts are preliminary and will be verified and published in the coming days.