TAMPA— Even though the conditions were worse than they were for last year's Gasparilla Distance Classic half-marathon— swirling gusts of wind and the aftereffects of a 5:30 a.m. downpour— the top of the standings looked the same.
Though neither bettered their course-record times set in last year's balmy weather, Tampa's Elias Gonzalez, 35, and Satellite Beach's Jessica Crate, 26, defended their men's and women's titles, respectively.
"(Saturday) was so nice (for the event's 15K), but (Sunday), I can't believe the change," said Gonzalez, who finished in 1 hour, 12 minutes, 14 seconds, about a minute off his course record, 1:11:09.
"I felt the wind on my face on the way back, mostly coming from my left, so I tried to stay close to the left side of the buildings to block the wind."
Gonzalez, who ran at the University of Tampa, is also a two-time Gasparilla 15K champion (2005 and 2006) and finished sixth in that race Saturday.
Gonzalez led the entire 13.1 miles Sunday. Seth Rosonina, 20, of Riverview, came in second with a time of 1:12:29, and Joshua Prevatt, 27, of Brandon, made up nearly a minute in the closing half of the race to finish third at 1:12:51.
Crate, originally from Canada and an FSU graduate, ran with the men the whole time and finished in 1:21:19, 16th overall and more than two minutes faster than the second-place woman, Emily Ramsey, 27, of Grain Valley, Mo. (1:23:59). Third was Kaia Hampton of Tampa in 1:25:15.
Crate set the course record last year, 1:21:18.
"I wanted to go for the record (Sunday) before I knew the conditions, but my first goal was to defend the title," said Crate, who won the inaugural St. Petersburg Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon last month. "It just makes you stronger. You've got to have fun out there."
Crate once again used this race as preparation for the Boston Marathon on April 16. In last year's Boston Marathon, Crate broke her left foot at Mile 14. She kept racing and still was running fast enough to qualify for the 2012 Olympic trials until Mile 20. Ultimately, she finished in 3 hours, 4 minutes, 15 seconds. (The trials qualifying time was 2:46.)
During her rehabilitation, she took up biking and swimming and entered a few triathlons. She has qualified for the International Triathlon Union's World Triathlon Series Grand Final in Auckland, New Zealand, in October.
"That's why I love triathlons, said Crate, who now hopes to qualify for the Olympics in that event. "It's a new challenge for me because I'm not great at everything yet. The run, fine, but biking and swimming is a challenge. It makes it fun."