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Shalini Zabaneh wins fifth Women’s Cross Country title

Shalini Zabaneh (2014 Cross Country Champion)

Shalini Zabaneh (2014 Cross Country Champion)

Shalini Zabaneh
(2014 Cross Country Champion)

Sunday, May 18, 2014. AARON HUMES Reporting: Independence village’s own Shalini Zabaneh added to her impressive record with a fifth Women’s Cross Country Cycling Classic title on Sunday, but it did not come easy.

Nine women lined up in Santa Elena Town for the 70-mile journey to Belize City, ending in front of ‘s Leslie’s Imports.  Eight Belizeans and one foreigner, Mexican Laura Rodriguez rode the race.

The decisive move of the race came at Three Sisters Hill in Unitedville Village, where Patricia Chavarria attacked and rivals Zabaneh and Kaya Cattouse responded, distancing themselves from the rest of the field, which consisted of sisters Gina and Gabrielle Lovell and Alicia Thompson and Marinette Flowers.

The trio stayed together all the way to Hattieville with the chase group unable to get closer than forty seconds.

Zabaneh attacked and neither Cattouse nor Chavarria was able to run her down.

She finished unofficially in three hours, 12 minutes and 54 seconds, a few minutes shy of the official record set by Mexican Brenda Aguayo in 2007 – three hours, seven minutes.

Afterward Zabaneh told reporters that she realized she had to make her move when the chasers were closing in and her rivals looked weak.

Chavarria impressed observers with her ability and said she was very happy with her performance.

Cattouse noted that but for a headwind change with 30 miles left in the race they might have broken the record – and she might have been able to challenge Chavarria or Zabaneh for top spot.

As it was she conceded second place to Chavarria for her work on the road, both to keep the chasers off and trying to reel Zabaneh in.

The first place prize is $3,000 – $1,500 from the Ministry of Education Youth and Sports and $1,500 from the Office of the Special Envoy for Women and Children, along with the official trophy and one donated by the Brannon family in memory of Kevin and Philip Brannon.

Second place got $800 and third, $300.

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