Grand Cayman is so flat that when runners negotiated the undulating layout of the North South Golf Course on Saturday their legs were screaming for mercy at the end.
More than 100 registered for the inaugural staging of the Cayman Cross Country race, and for many reasons this event, organized by Race Caribbean, looks likely to become a local favorite.
The 3.5 mile race was won comfortably by Tahj Lewis in 21 minutes 34 seconds, ahead of second place Tobias Mochene (22:04), and Samuel Young (22:49) in third. Delano Callender (23:04) was fourth, Will Edwards (23:07) fifth and Tom Gammage (23:46) sixth.
Tiffany Cole (24:06) put in a typical electric sprint finish to beat Joanna Mansi (24:12) in the women’s race. They were seventh and eighth, respectively. Kiara McLaughlin (27:12) was the third fastest female, 25th overall.
Lewis, 17, was satisfied with his victory, which he treated like a training run because many of the fastest locals did not enter. Dominic Dyer, Jason Saunders, Marius Acker (who officiated) and David Walker were missing.
“I felt pretty comfortable the whole way around,” Lewis said. “It came down towards the end to be a sprint. It was different than the usual road races. I had quite a bit of fun.”
Now his focus switches back to the track in preparation for the 800 meters at CARIFTA in St. Kitts over the Easter weekend where he will be one of the youngest entrants but hopes to at least make the final.
Special allowance by the North Sound Golf Club board was made for this event through club member Phil Riposo, who has throughout his life competed in and organized cross country races.
Riposo was the race director, and Race Caribbean’s chief timer Derek Larner got his dedicated band of volunteers to help out. Riposo and his wife Hillary Shaw Riposo are from Massachusetts and have been living on Patrick’s Island for four years.
Riposo spent many hours organizing the course’s layout and markings and training volunteers. Trevor Murphy and Claire Griffin handled the timing. It all paid off in the end, and the race finished on schedule with no mishaps to runners nor the course, allowing a smooth transition for the Cayman Islands national golf tournament to start on time.
Riposo acknowledged that things were a little hectic and a few minor things can be improved, but overall it “went fantastic”.
He added that “the runners loved the race.”
He first ran cross country in Syracuse, New York, at age 14, loved it and has been immersed in the event since.
“I’ve run all sorts of races across the world since, but cross country is aesthetically the most fun,” Riposo said. “You can always run indoor or outdoor track and other road races, but there is nothing like the feel of grass and hills underneath your feet, and I knew this island was ready to have something different.”
He said the North Sound Club is perfect for this type of event because of the weather and layout. “Nothing but kudos and total thanks to the club for allowing this to happen here,” Riposo said. “And a special notation to Jeff Sauvage [club manager] for putting up with us and being patient and allowing us to have it here.”
Larner said he was happy because it is an event for purists, excluding dogs, walkers and strollers, which have become the norm in local short distance runs.
“To get that amount of runners in our first of its kind, I’m very happy,” he said. “It created quite a buzz, and a lot of hard work went into it by Phil Riposo, who deserves a big slap on the back for putting in so much time.”
Larner also thanked some of the volunteer team for their input, including Murphy, Griffin, Acker, Russell Smith, Lesley-Anne Daley and Laura Manson.
Race Caribbean is helping out with the Mercuryman Triathlon this Sunday at the Reef Resort, East End, and then it’s the Cross Island Relay on Feb. 1, which will for the first time have batons with chip timing. Race Caribbean then organizes the Valentine’s Mile on Feb. 15, followed by Off The Beaten Track on March 1, and then two Cadet Corps races.