Lee Stephens drew away from the field, pumping his arms rhythmically, looking fresh and steady as he charged through the homestretch of Thursday's Times Turkey Trot 10K.
Moments before crossing the finish line, the St. Petersburg resident raised his arms in triumph. Years of frustration were finally over.
Stephens, a Turkey Trot veteran, won the 6.2-mile race for the first time, finishing in 32 minutes, 27 seconds.
"This is one of my lifelong goals," Stephens said.
The day aligned nicely for Stephens. Tony Nicolosi, the former Seminole High standout and defending champion, decided not to run. And Stephens' toughest competitor, former Northeast High star Jon Mott, ran in the 5K about two hours earlier.
Stephens and Mott dictated the pace and stayed within striking distance of one another through the first 3 miles. Then Stephens sped up to get water and noticed Mott's resolve start to sag.
Stephens surged into first and didn't relinquish his lead, finishing 1:23 ahead of Mott, who later was disqualified for finishing in the wrong lane.
"I was really motivated, and it was kind of a relief to win," Stephens said.
He hoped to see his wife, Christa Stephens (formerly Benton), win her fifth straight women's 10K.
That didn't happen.
Sara Petrick of Apollo Beach, who finished second last year, won in 36:49, 1:18 ahead of the second-place Stephens.
"My goal all along was to stay with Christa through the race and maybe beat her at the end," said Petrick, who was a distance runner for Tampa's Academy of the Holy Names and University of Florida.
Petrick did not have Stephens' company for long. By the first mile, Petrick surged ahead of the field as her race become mostly a solitary endeavor.
"Christa was having some labored breathing through the first mile or so," Petrick said. "Some days you have it. Some days you don't. I was able to stay ahead from the start and take control."
Briana Whaley and Ryan Ripley won the 5K (3.1 miles) in 17:19 and 15:07, respectively. Allison Shirley and Shane Stroup won the 1-mile in 5:54 and 4:16, respectively.