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Johnston keeps his cool to edge out Potts in close battle

Labour Day Race- 5k winner (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Akim Johnston won the Swan’s Labour Day 5K road race, improving on his runner-up spot last year.

But it was a close result, and it was only at the penultimate corner of the course that he opened enough daylight between himself and Alan Potts to secure victory in 19min 8sec.

Among the women it was Lucy Ching who led from start to finish, opening a commanding lead in the first mile and maintaining it to the end as she crossed the line in 23:13.

Traditionally a five-mile event, this year’s Labour Day race featured a new course and distance. The shorter race proved to be a prudent move as heat and humidity pushed the “feels like” temperature into the 90s.

The earlier leaders conserved energy in the first half of the race, but things started to heat up when they headed up East Broadway after turning at Crow Lane roundabout.

Johnston, 17, said: “When we got to the roundabout about four or five guys came up to the front and that’s when the race really started. That’s when the temperature went up too.”

The teenager found himself in a head-to-head with Potts in the final mile, and it was only as they turned from Court Street onto Dundonald Street, heading for the finish just off Union Square, that Johnston sensed he had opened a gap on Potts.

Johnston has been training through the summer heat and was delighted to have improved on his 2015 runner-up spot. He splits his sporting focus between running and football, and on the track specialises at middle-distance.

The victory underlines his emergence on the local road running scene. In May he made his Bermuda Day Half-Marathon debut, coming second in his age group and 22nd overall.

New resident Potts, 37, has only been on the island for two weeks. The maths teacher is a keen triathlete and has competed in many Olympic-distance events in Switzerland, where he previously lived. He was two seconds adrift of Johnston at the end.

“The humidity slowed me down a little. “We have hills and heat in Switzerland, but not the humidity,” he said.

Craig Rothwell, 42, third in 19:43, said: “I took it steady to begin with. I knew it would be tough. When Alan and Akim started running away I tried to keep up.”

Women’s champion Ching, 35, is training for the New York City Marathon in November. It will be her debut at the distance and she would like to break four hours. In preparation, she has put in a lot of early morning training sessions to avoid the worst of the summer heat.

Last month she competed in the Burnham Beeches half-marathon in England, running a time of 1:48:47.

Considering the longer mileage training she has been doing, she was pleased with her 5K performance.

The two turnaround points on the course meant she was aware of how much lead she had on second-placed Sharon Craig.

Ching, who was fifteenth overall, hopes to continue sharpening her speed in local events ahead of the marathon in New York.

Runner-up Craig, 56, finished in 24:29, followed by Jenene Douglas, 46, in 24:37.

In the junior 2.2K race, Tommy Marshall, 12, was first across the line in exactly eight minutes. Next was Izaih Tucker, 13, in 8:03, to win the boys’ 13-15 division. Third place was Yari Tucker, 12, in 8:10.

Jessie Marshall, 14, was the fastest girl, finishing fifth overall in 8:36.

Other junior age division winners were Kari Sharrieff, 8, in the boy’s 8-10 category, Myeisha Sharrieff, 10, in the girls’ 8-10, and Doireann Oshaughnessey, 12, in the girls’ 11-12.

The 5K walk was won by Shinah Simons, 54, in 37:23, ahead of Robert Durham, 55, in 37:42, and first woman Gilda Cann, 62, in 37:48.

Results, page 34