Traversing some of Florida's most challenging backcountry trails at Alafia River State Park, Marc Dannis, 33 of St. Petersburg, captured second place Sunday at the Florida Challenge Half Marathon.
Dannis, running at a pace just over seven minutes a mile, completed the 13.1-mile trail race in 1:33:36, less than a minute behind winner Erik Blosser of Vero Beach (1:33:00). Dannis finished as the top racer in the men's 30-34-year-old group.
Steve Schwab, 42 of Oldsmar, also cracked the top 10 on the men's side after crossing the finish line in 1:35:20 to place fifth. Schwab won the men's 40-44-year-old group by more than 21/2 minutes.
Among local female competitors, May-li Cuypers, 43 of Largo had the best showing. She won the masters age division and came in fifth overall with a time of 1:55:17. Tampa's Mary Middlebrooks (1:41:54) was the women's champion.
Gareth Burns of Palm Harbor won the men's 15-19-year-old group in 1:42:04, and Clearwater's Sloane Baby was the top female runner in the 20-24-year-old group with her time of 2:04:05.
In the 5K competition Sunday at Alafia River State Park, Gabriele Planzo, 26 of Clearwater, earned a 10th-place finish and the distinction as the top runner in the men's 25-29-year-old group after clocking in at 23:01.
Sheila King, 45 of St. Petersburg, was eighth on the women's side in 27:56. King was the fastest runner in the women's 45-49-year-old group.
Scott Lafferty of Valrico (19:43) and Rae Ann Darling-Reed of Bradenton (23:20) were the men's and women's champions. In addition, John James of St. Petersburg (26:03) was the winner of the men's 35-39-year-old group, and Jim Ullery of Palm Harbor (35:33) won the men's 60-64-year-old group.
OCALA MARATHON: Safety Harbor's Flo Riggie claimed the top spot in the women's 55-59-year-old group at the Ocala Marathon on Sunday.
Riggie's time of 4:11:23.7 was more than 40 minutes faster than her nearest age group competitor. She finished 10th in the women's competition and was 44th overall.
ST. PETE ROAD RUNNERS: Lisa Ferguson, a senior physical therapist and orthopedic clinical specialist at the Comprehensive Rehab Center at Palms of Pasadena Hospital, will be the guest speaker at the St. Pete Road Runners meeting on Thursday, Feb. 11.
The meeting is open to the public and will be held at the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast Service Center, located at 3050 First Ave. S in St. Petersburg.
WHALEY FIRST IN SARASOTA: Briana Whaley, 31 of Clearwater, was the female champion at the New Balance Ringling Bridge Run in Sarasota on Jan. 23.
Whaley completed the 4-mile race, which featured more than 2,500 participants and followed a route back and forth over the Ringling Bridge, in 23:18, a pace under six minutes per mile. She was second overall.
Ricardo Lomas of Venice was the race champion in 21:58.
Brian Zipler, 24 of Clearwater, won first place in the men's 20-24-year-old division after crossing the finish line in 25:02.
Joe Burgasser, 71 of St. Petersburg, ran 27:38 to earn the male veterans grandmaster champion distinction.
Debra Donald, 51 of St. Petersburg, claimed the female grandmaster champion title with her time of 28:10.
LOCAL RUNNER dies: Ray Goetz, an avid runner for more than 20 years and a fixture on the bay area running scene, died Jan. 20 as the result of a heart attack suffered while running. He was 69.
Goetz frequently participated in local events. His most challenging race came 15 years ago when he ran a 24-hour endurance race around the St. Petersburg Catholic High School track. He completed more than 300 laps, a distance of 78 miles, to place fifth.
VOLUNTEERS NEEDED: Race organizers for the Belleair Classic are searching for more than 150 volunteers.
Sign up at www.belleairclassic.com or e-mail [email protected] A volunteer meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Dimmitt Community Center in Belleair.
The Belleair Classic, which is set for March 6, features 10K and 5K road races as well as the Brick-4-Breakfast, a 25-mile bike tour. Registration can be submitted at www.active.com or in person at the Dimmitt Community Center.
Bryan Burns can be reached at [email protected]