Clewiston's Austin Richmond wins Gasparilla Distance Classic 15K; Clearwater's Briana Whaley the top woman

TAMPA — Austin Richmond waited until the 2-mile mark to make his move.

"I saw my chance, and I never looked back," said the 24-year-old from Clewiston after winning Saturday's Gasparilla Distance Classic 15K.

Richmond, who finished second in the race two years ago, shadowed North Carolina's Jim Wahl at the start.

"I was just getting the feel of things," Richmond said. "The course is flat and fast. I went into it with a plan and just tried to stick with it."

Richmond and Wahl broke away from the rest of the pack after the first quarter-mile. Both men logged a sub 5-minute first mile, then Wahl briefly took the lead.

But Richmond breezed past the 27-year-old and by the halfway mark, he had lengthened his lead to 36 seconds.

The conditions were ideal for running. The air was cool, the wind moderate, with a slight drizzle to keep things interesting.

Richmond kept his pace until the sixth mile when a side cramp started to give him trouble.

"I feel like I have a hernia," he said afterward. "All I could do was just try to hold on."

Richmond ended up winning by 1 minute, 38 seconds. Afterward, he went straight for his 6-month-old daughter, Alexa, and swept her up in his arms.

"All I could think about was getting across the finish line and holding my little girl," he said.

Richmond's time was a personal record.

"We wanted to break 46 (minutes)," said Brian Moody, his coach. "But it is hard to push it when you are out there in front by yourself. All you can do is run as hard as you can."

Hank Campbell, a 30-year-old from St. Petersburg, was the top local runner. He finished third with a time of 49:51 and took home the top cash prize, $2,000, designated for the top "local" finisher.

"I just tried to run a technical race," Campbell said. "I knew who I had to beat to be the first local."

Since Richmond lives in Clewiston, he was not eligible for any cash. Lee Stephens, 29, of Plant City finished just steps behind Campbell in 49.57.

In the women's ranks, 31-year-old Briana Whaley of Clearwater was the first one across in 54:05.

"I was just praying that I could hold on," said Whaley, who recently moved to Florida from Virginia.

Whaley suffered a serious leg injury at the 2008 Olympic Marathon Trials.

"My whole gait is off," she said. "I have been working with the folks at Morton Plant (Hospital), and they have helped me a lot. But I am still not 100 percent."

Sara Petrick, 23, of Apollo Beach finished second with a time of 54:40 and was followed by former USF standout Christa Benton, 26, of St. Petersburg in 54:47.

St. Petersburg also had two teenagers near the top of the pack: Savannah J. Dearden, 16, placed 17th in 1 hour, 2 seconds, and Alex Eaton, 14, was 21st in 1:03:22.

The 33rd Gasparilla Distance Classic drew 5,381, which was up over last year's attendance of 5,011, but short of 2000 when it peaked at 5,876.

Clewiston's Austin Richmond wins Gasparilla Distance Classic 15K; Clearwater's Briana Whaley the top woman 02/27/10 [Last modified: Saturday, February 27, 2010 9:22pm]

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