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Michigan runners lower Gasparilla Distance Classic 8K course mark

Two runners from the Hansons-Brooks running program rolled into Tampa on Sunday and rewrote the record book in the Gasparilla Distance Classic 8K road race.

Robert Curtis, a 28-year-old who ran for Villanova in college, set a course record of 23 minutes, 30 seconds, covering the 4.97-mile course at a pace of 4:43 per mile.

His colleague on the Michigan-based track team, 23-year-old Dustin Emerick, finished second in 24:28, which was more than two minutes faster than the record of 26:42 set by Oscar Orozco in 2012.

"We have been training in Orlando," Curtis said. "So we saw this race as an opportunity to put in a good, hard effort."

Stephanie McGrail, a 26-year-old from Gainesville, won the women's 8K in 32:07. She was followed by Bradenton's Rae Ann Darling Reed, 39, in 34:00.

Up for the challenge: Tampa's Matthew Farrell wasn't satisfied with running Saturday's 15K. He ran all four Gasparilla Distance Classic races over the weekend to be crowned the Michelob Ultra Challenge champion with a combined time of 3 hours, 14 minutes, 18 seconds. The 32-year-old ran the 5K in 18:20; the 8K in 32:54; the 15K in 57:01 and the half marathon in 1:26:03.Kristine Claffie of Lithia was the women's champion (3:30:42). The 37-year-old ran the 5K in 20:55; the 8K in 35:11; the 15K in 1:02:55 and the half marathon in 1:31:41.

The Beck's Light Challenge winner ran three races. Michael Rivera, 25, of Nicaragua, had a combined time of 2:44:34. He ran the 5K in 18:51; the 15K in 1:00:00 and the half marathon in 1:25:43. The women's Beck Light champion was Jacki Wachtel, 33, of New Port Richey. She ran the 5K in 19:05; the 15K in 56:49 and the half marathon in 1:27:30 for a combined 2:43:24.

Tampa's Jeff Lessie, 52, won the Bud Select Mini Challenge (8K and 15K) with a combined time of 1:27:54 (30:14 and 57:40). Beth Grimes, 46, from North Attleboro, Mass., won the women's division with a combined time of 1:45:01 (36:01 and 1:09:00).

Setting the pace: Women's half marathon record holder Jessica Crate was back on the course again this year, but she was not looking to win any awards.

"This year it is all about giving back," said Crate, a 27-year-old from Melbourne. "I am out here to pace other runners."

Crate, who ran the Gasparilla's fastest marathon two years ago (1:20:06), hopes to make it to the 2016 Olympics, but for now she is happy just to help other runners set personal records.

A coach, nutritionist and sports marketer, Crate led runners through all four events over the race weekend.

"Pacing is a privilege and responsibility," she said. "Helping somebody else do well is one way we can all advance the sport."

She recently formed a not-for-profit organization, Giving Athletics Inc., that will help like-minded runners promote follow her lead. Learn more at marathonpacing.com.

"I'll be back racing again next year," she said. "So get ready for a showdown in 2014."

Michigan runners lower Gasparilla Distance Classic 8K course mark 02/24/13 [Last modified: Sunday, February 24, 2013 9:20pm]

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