Monday, March 19, 2018

Austin Richmond wins Gasparilla 15K

TAMPA — Austin Richmond and Jonathon Mott live roughly 330 yards from one another on the same street in Babson Park.

When Richmond walks out of his house in the Polk County neighborhood to go to his part-time job as a bank teller, invariably he'll spot Mott completing an early morning run. Most evenings, the Webber International University graduates can be found running side by side.

The two are close friends.

And Saturday, they were the only runners with any shot of winning the 36th annual Gasparilla Distance Classic 15K.

For six miles, Richmond and Mott sped down Bayshore Boulevard all by themselves with no more than a couple of feet separating them.

But with a third of the race remaining, Richmond made his move to surge ahead, and he continued putting distance between himself and Mott all the way to the finish line to win his second Gasparilla 15K.

"I didn't want (my surge) to last a minute. I wanted it to last a mile, a mile and a half, to kind of put a lead on (Mott)," said Richmond, 27. "When I do a surge, it's just going for broke. It's either going to totally work or it's not."

Richmond, who earned $2,000 for winning, crossed the finish line in 47 minutes, 26 seconds, slightly off the pace (46:49) of his 2010 victory. Mott, 26, finished in 47:50 and won $1,500. Richmond and Mott were third and fourth, respectively, a year ago.

"I felt really good early," Mott said. "My goal was to shut (Richmond) down as soon as possible, but he just held on. When we hit about the seventh mile, he threw down."

Mott grabbed the lead at the start, with Richmond hanging on his left hip. By the first mile, the rest of the field was lagging far behind. By Mile 2, the field was out of their sight.

Mott continued a step ahead of Richmond through the halfway turnaround.

"I heard (Richmond) breathing a little harder, so I started to throw some surges in there," Mott said. "But he was smart and stayed the pace. After the turnaround, about the seventh mile, he started to take off."

Richmond, who completed a marathon in Jacksonville six days earlier, had enough left in his legs to widen the gap after wrestling the lead from Mott.

"As a runner, you have a sense when someone's close, and I knew he wasn't close enough to close that distance," Richmond said. "I knew he wasn't far, but I knew that I had done enough."

In the women's 15K, Briana Whaley of Clearwater led wire to wire to claim her third title. Whaley, 34, defeated 2012 champion Sara Petrick of Apollo Beach by 46 seconds, finishing in 55:35. Petrick, 26, beat Whaley by 10 seconds a year ago.

For Whaley, the victory was her third in four years.

"After you win something and come back and then you win again and come back and you're second, there's just a lot of pressure," Whaley said.

Whaley was surprised to find herself in front of the pack from the outset. She said she expected somebody to chase her down eventually, but the challenge never came.

"Usually everybody goes out so hard, and I don't know if the wind and the humidity — everybody had that in their mind so they kind of paced themselves from the beginning," Whaley said.

Whaley ($2,000) and Petrick ($1,500) collected a share of the for-locals-only purse.


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