Shoe delay but Acker’s got sole

The annual Ogier Stroke and Stride series kicked off last Wednesday and the first event in the series drew 126 starters of whom many were competing as members of a team.

The event consisted of a 400 metre swim from Sunset House out along the ironshore and around a buoy before having to complete a two mile run.

The event promised some tough battles for overall honours, with pre-race banter between perennial favourite and defending champion Marius Acker and the team of swimmer Jasper Mikkelsen and runner Dave Walker setting the scene for a titanic struggle.

As the whistle sounded to signal the start the ocean was churned up into a white foam as the competitors set off.

The field started spreading out early on, with top local swimmer Andrew Smillie taking a clear lead. Smillie never relinquished his lead and exited the water first, handing over to his team runner Bill Edwards.

Acker was second out of the water after an excellent swim, putting the pressure on all the other challengers to chase him down.

As one of the fastest runners on island, Acker’s would be tough to catch, although the transition from the swim to the run could present a problem.

While Acker had to put on shoes, which can be pretty tough with wet feet, the team runners were ready and waiting to take off as soon as their swimmers tagged them.

Johan Heath was the closest competitor to Acker in the individual male division, exiting the water not too far behind the South African banker.

Mikkelsen exited the water well behind Acker and just in front of Lizzie Haines, who seemed in a good position to challenge for the women’s title. Annelle Rabie also had an excellent swim, as did Sally Rubner, but they were likely to face a tough challenge from faster runners like Marlene West and Emily Davies.

As the run progressed the running specialists cut a swath through the field, catching and passing many of the faster swimmers.

At the finish line the excitement grew as spectators and team swimmers awaited the return of the first runners.

First to round the corner and make his way across the line was Walker who took the win and team title in a time of 18:29.19.

Walker was followed home by Acker, who crossed the line 17 seconds later to claim the title as the first individual male home.

‘I had a glimmer of hope (of beating Mikkelsen and Walker) early on, as I had an awesome swim, but that hope faded quickly,’ said Acker.

Cool Runnings runner Beth Schreader was next across the line, claiming second in the team competition with Tori Flowers, followed home by the Cajun Hound Racing team.

Heath was the second individual male across the line, with Dean Gaffigan claiming third.

Among the women, Haines made a triumphant return to the event, claiming the win in 23:01.57, with West claiming second and Davies rounding out the podium.

The series continues on Wednesday with the second race featuring a 600m swim and two mile run. Race day registration is available at Sunset House from 4:30 pm, with the race scheduled to start at 5:45 pm. Entry fee $10.

For full race results, visit www.caymanactive.com.

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