Teens turn up heat to take Mile

CHRISTOPHER Reid powered his way to an uncontested second straight victory at the 90th SPAR River Mile at Cannonville outside Port Elizabeth yesterday. Reid, who swims for Aquabear in Port Elizabeth, showed his class as he took advantage of favourable currents to leave the field of 450 men in his wake in the Sundays River.

The 18-year-old was followed home by East London's Edward Johannisen, who won the SPAR Kowie Mile in December. Another PE swimmer, Dylan Smith, 15, rounded out the podium in third.

Collegiate schoolgirl Kaley Gouws was first out of the water to claim gold in the women's mile.

Her PEA Swim Club teammate Tarryn Els, who won the women's wetsuit mile on Saturday, finished second, with Hannah Haswell third.

Reid said his strategy had been to go hard from the start.

"I wanted to set a pace that I could just handle and keep that going until the halfway mark, then pick up my stroke rate to the end of the race."

It paid off as he dropped his nearest rivals 100m into the swim.

"The current was very strong. I could feel it pushing me all the way along and it really gave me the edge."

The Grey High School pupil has just returned from Australia where he represented South Africa against the world's best in the BHP Billiton Super Series gala, He finished sixth in his event.

"There's still a lot to come this year, but it's a good start."

Gouws said the frontrunners in the 350-strong field had set a blistering pace from the start in the women's race.

"The leaders started off very fast so I had to go with them.

"Tammy Price was in the lead and I was just staying in her slipstream. Then about halfway through she started slowing down so I went ahead.

"It felt a lot longer than 1600m! I eventually saw the flags and just started sprinting."

A small lead group chased her to the finish.

This is the second outing in the event for the 14-year-old Eastern Province swimmer, who will attend the senior national championships in April.

On Saturday, paralympic gold medallist and multiple winner Kevin Paul notched up yet another undisputed victory in the mile for swimmers with disabilities. Ingrid Kingwill won the women's race.

Team Watersmart's Daniel Jones took the win in the men's wetsuit mile.

Among the more than 1400 participants who took part in the weekend swimming festival was 81-year-old Mally Richards of Jeffreys Bay, who completed his 61st mile.

Richards said he first participated in the country's oldest open-water race as a 14-year-old schoolboy.

"I got near the end today and thought 'I mustn't conk in now'. I'll be back next year if I can."

Richards' son Kevin is a six-time champion.

Also in the water yesterday was another six-time winner Geoff Grylls, who last swam to victory 49 years ago.

Grylls said it was amazing how the race had grown since then.

"It's not just a little race anymore – it's a carnival. And there are races for all ages so that kids can aspire to the bigger events."

He said the various racing options provided a platform for the event to keep on growing beyond its 90th year.

For more info visit www.rivermile.co.zaor find SPAR EC in Action on Facebook.