Acker prevails in tightest yet

Months of muscle-sapping work went into their preparation and for many at the Arch & Godfrey Cayman Islands triathlon on Sunday every single ounce of effort beforehand was worth it.  

The top finishers were not a surprise but they all deserve props – especially the individuals – for just competing, whether they finished or not at the new course at Public Beach.  

All put together by Trevor Murphy, president of the triathlon association and his reliable team, it went smoothly as competitors tackled the Olympic course which was a 1,500 metre swim, followed by 40km bike finishing with a 10km run. The sprint distance was half that.  

Visiting Canadian pros Lisa Mensink and Karen Thibodeau were respective first and second and of the locals, first home was the team Tag You’re It!  

The swim leg by the Tag team was done by Elaine Heausler, then Steve Abbott took over on the bike before Lauretta Bennett completed the run part. 

They were third in 2 hours 06 minutes 22 seconds, only 40 seconds ahead of perennial champ Marius Acker. 

Johan Heath was second individual local for the fourth consecutive year in 2:10:10 but he had the satisfaction in his last tri on these shores to close the gap again on his South African compatriot.  

John David was third individual male, sixth overall and then Greg Meaker came in, just ahead of Team Guavaberry Marketing. 

Fastest amateur female was Arwen Lawson for the second consecutive year. The American fitness trainer comes from New Jersey for this event as it ties in nicely for her work and vacation schedules and it ticks many other boxes including giving her a chance to check on her holiday home here, soak in some much appreciated tropical weather and to participate in a great event. Michelle Bailey and Helki Weber were second and third amateur females individually.  

It was nice to see husband and wife duo Jody and Bill “Tarzan” McFarland finishing together with wifey jokingly pushing her partner over the finishing line.  

Scott Ruby, featured recently in this paper for losing over 130 pounds over four years to become a super-fit ultra distance competitor, finished strongly. He was fortunate to be able to retrieve his wedding ring from the bottom of the sea which slipped off during his swim leg. Sounds like Ruby has lost so much weight, it needs to be contracted. Wife Miles was waiting for him at the end and equally relieved to see the band still firmly on his finger.  

Dave Bennett, Lauretta’s husband, was also featured in this paper recently. He too completed the Olympic course in style. Bennett is a survivor of a horrendous episode of testicular cancer and like Ruby lost an immense amount of weight. 

Shoutouts also go to the likes of Bernardo Neri, Sarah Superfine, DJ Evans, Marlon Crowe, Douglas “JR” Cameron, Rodger Yeomans, Jon Roney, Chris Sutton, Kevin Connolly, Conrad Proud, Debra Illes, Larry Walters, Sally Poole, Andrea Roach, Richard Hew and many others for competing and making the event great again. They will never finish on the podium but entered this tortuous slog and resolutely finished despite the immense pain. They too showed a champion’s spirit.  

Farewell to Julie-Anne Pearson who left Cayman to spend time in Australia. She finished with a flourish, arms aloft with customary big smile.  

Acker’s training was hampered by injury in the build up but his competitive spirit is always at its peak under adversity and he prevailed again.  

“During the Stroke and Stride series in August I got injured and did not run the Chicago Marathon three weeks ago,” Acker said. “I’ve been going to Dr. Lippert, a chiropractor on island and he has been instrumental in getting me back into good running form since the stride series injury. 

“I knew beforehand the lead would change during the bike leg and I knew if I wanted to take time on Johan it would either be on the run or on the swim. 

“Over the last three weeks I contemplated a race plan that would have me go out much harder on the swim than I’ve ever done before in order to gain time on the bike so that I would have to make up less time on him on the run leg when I am chasing him because he overtook me on the bike course.” 

But Acker decided against going out hard on the swim fearing that Heath would draft him as he is a stronger swimmer and that would leave him refreshed for the bike and run legs. 

Acker decided to try and draft the pros instead. “It paid off as I managed to gain about 90 seconds on Johan. I also worked on my swim much more this year and this has been my best swim in a tri on island to date.” 

Heath passed Acker after one and half laps of the four lap bike course and at that point the champ sensed that he might retain his title because last year his rival was already ahead on the first leg of the bike course.  

Acker overhauled Heath on the run, as he always has to and won by 3 minutes 08 seconds, their closest yet.  

In 2010 the margin was 6 minutes 51 seconds, 2011 it was 3:28 and last year, only a week after Heath had completed the Miami half Ironman it was 5:00.  

Acker enjoyed the new layout and with the others a BBQ at nearby Duke’s after. He said: “Thank you to the sponsors, the race organizers and volunteers and the triathlon association who did an outstanding job to put together a superb event.” 

Now Acker want to wind up his year with another victory in the Cayman Islands half marathon on Dec. 1. He will face stiff opposition from the ever improving Dominic Corbin and possibly Jason Saunders.  

“I realize that an overseas runner male or female could easily come and win this race, that is an unknown factor,” he said. “I aim for a time and run against the clock and will be happy to get a great time and finish in the top three with an overseas athlete taking the title. 

“Last year I was not in good shape going into the half marathon. A local physiotherapist told me on the Tuesday before the race he doubted that I would be able to run that weekend. I ran it not knowing if I would be able to finish and knowing that I was not able to train properly the last three weeks prior to the half marathon as a result. 

“I aim to improve my time because my running form is much better than last year.” 

Heath was fully aware of what he needed to do to do. “The only way for me to win this race was to get a 40 second gap on Marius in the swim and first transition while then making a five minute gap on the bike,” he said.  

“The race started unexpectedly after a slight delay. I was caught behind slower swimmers and had to chase very hard to catch the two pro ladies and Marius.  

“I caught them and briefly held on to the last turn buoy on the first lap but then I lost them as I was at my limit. I went too hard too fast.” 

That’s when he knew his chances of winning were getting slimmer. Heath had a solid bike leg and knew he was in the best running shape of his life so just tried to hold on during the run which he started a few minutes ahead of Acker as usual.  

“With Marius being such a talented as well as determined runner he caught me on the second lap. 

“Nevertheless, I was happy with my bike and run performances. I knew my swim fitness was lacking but did not think I would lose so much time.  

“I did my personal best Cayman Olympic triathlon which was only 18 seconds away from my all-time best I did at the US Age Group champs in August which was held in much cooler conditions.”  

Heath will be competing in the half marathon and looking to do a personal best if work and family commitments in his last month in Cayman do not turn out to be exceptionally busy. 


Richie Hew showed electric pace at times.


Jules Pearson finished her last event with a flourish.


Jody McFarland helped hubby Bill finish.


Dave Bennett had another great tri.


Arwen Lawson was the female champ again.


South African trio, Marius Acker, Greg Meaker and Johan Heath.


Team Tag You’re It! comprised of Lauretta Bennett, Steve Abbott and Elaine Heausler.


JR Cameron completed his first Cayman tri in style. – PHOTOS: RON SHILLINGFORD


Scott and Miles Ruby had a ring scare.


Sarah Superfine toughed it out.