Only two weeks after making his marathon debut, Dennis Mbelenzi dropped down in distance to claim the David Saul Memorial Fidelity 5K Road Race title in a lifetime best of 15min 51sec.
In the women’s division, Gayle Lindsay also posted a new personal best as she successfully defended her title in 18:26.
There were 202 finishers in the main race, now in its 22nd year, which was renamed last year in honour of Dr Saul, the former premier and national record-setting road runner who died in May 2017.
Mbelenzi was part of a small group that quickly established a lead over the rest of the field on the outward leg of the out-and-back course along Harbour Road. By the turnaround point, he was in the company of Teddy Shum and teenager Ryan Outerbridge, at the head of the pack, with Tim Price and Tommy Marshall, 14, in close pursuit.
“We decided to keep going at that pace and see who could last the longest,” said Mbelenzi, who eventually edged ahead to claim a 12-second victory, with Shum next in 16:03, followed by Outerbridge, 15, who won the under-18 title in a personal best of 16:22.
Mbelenzi, 37, was delighted with his run considering he has been in recovery mode for the past two weeks since running a 2hr 53min marathon in near freezing conditions in Toronto to secure a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon.
Among the women, it was Ashley Irby, 17, who made the early running and led at the halfway point, with Lindsay some 20 metres behind.
“Ashley went out fast, and I knew I did not have that speed in my legs. My goal was to run a sub-19,” said Lindsay, 30.
“After halfway, I could see Ashley was slowing a little and that’s when I caught up.”
But the race was not over, in the finishing straight there was a four-person sprint that ended with Lindsay staying two seconds clear of Irby, who won the under-18 title and improved on last year’s overall fourth-place finish. Third woman was masters’ division winner Deon Breary, in 18:45.
Members of Dr Saul’s family were among prize winners, with Jonathan Saul first master and ninth overall in 17:57, while Christine Saul was second in the over-70 women’s division in 37:33.
This year’s event also raised funds for the Neil Burnie Foundation, set up in memory of the late vet who had a passion for the ocean.
It was a close battle in the junior 1K race, with Masaki Kitade, 10, winning in 3.57, ahead of Saezjhor Dent in 3.58, and first girl Jaeda Grant, in 3:59. Second and third-placed girls were Keyandae Lightbourne in 4.17 and Kelise Wade in 4.35, while third boy was Maximilian Kimberley in 4:00.
The four to six-year-old age group was won by Joey Griffiths in 5:06, with Yahri Smith the first girl in 5:58. The competitive 5K walk was won by Gina Bradshaw in 36:03, ahead of Gilda Cann, who had the same finishing time, and Delia Basden in 37:37.
Among the men’s age division winners in the 5K were: Neil de Ste Croix (senior masters) in 17:27; Paulo Medeiros (over-60) 22:06; and Keith Chiappa (over-70) 25:59.
Other winners in the women’s age divisions were: Victoria Fiddick (senior masters) in 20:09; Terri Durrant (over-60) 25:42, and Peggy Couper (over-70) in 29:05.