Sunday, December 17, 2017
Sports

Mott sets Gasparilla half marathon record

TAMPA — Jon Mott was three beers deep into his postrace despair on Saturday evening when he got a text from Justin Perkins, his old college roommate.

"He told me to stop whining," Mott said. "That's when we hatched the plan."

Mott, a former Northeast High standout, had just finished second to Austin Richmond in the Gasparilla Distance Classic 15K, running 24 seconds behind the winning time of 47 minutes, 26 seconds.

"I was really disappointed in my performance," Mott said. "Justin suggested that I drive back over to Tampa and redeem myself."

The former Webber International University teammates left Babson Park in Polk County at 3:30 a.m. and made it to the registration table 20 minutes before Sunday's half marathon was set to begin.

"We usually don't let people sign up at the last minute like that," race director Susan Harmeling said. "But in this case, we made a judgment call and let him in."

Mott paid the $75 registration fee, which is usually waived for athletes of his stature. Then he headed to the starting line, took off like a man on a mission and shattered the course record by more than a minute.

"I had to come back and run again," said Mott, who covered the 13.1-mile course in 1 hour, 9 minutes, 50 seconds, besting the record of 1:11:09 set by Elias Gonzalez in 2011. "I wanted to push myself and see if I was capable of doing Olympic trial-standard splits in a long race like this."

Mott said he started at a "slow" pace of approximately 5:30 for the first four or five miles. About a third of the way into the race, Mott began "surging," picking up the pace for 20 seconds or so, gradually lengthening the lead over the runners behind him.

"I knew that there was no way that I could keep up with him," said Gonzalez, who finished fifth in 1:17:28. "He had a great pace going. He just had a great race."

When Mott switched into high gear, he started going at a 5-minute-a-mile pace. "I knew that if I could keep it up, nobody would be able to catch me," he said.

The 26-year-old slowed a bit toward the end but still finished more than four minutes ahead of the second-place runner, 30-year-old Sean Gallagher of Clearwater, who logged a 1:14:10. Michael Rosato, 24, of Gainesville came in third (1:14:50).

The half marathon, now in its 10th year, started at 6 a.m. on Bayshore Boulevard when the streets were still dark and a dense fog hung over the city.

"It was a little humid," Mott said, "but not bad enough that it slowed me down."

In the women's race, Tampa's Terri Rejimbal finished first in 1:23:35.

"I felt like I was on parade out there with all those people cheering me on," said Rejimbal, who at age 44 is technically a master's runner. "I felt like the crowd support really helped my time."

Jacki Wachtel, a 33-year-old from New Port Richey, came in second (1:27:30), followed by 51-year-old Lisa Valentine of St. Petersburg in 1:28:18.

"I had the Burgasser advantage," Valentine said, giving a shout-out to legendary Tampa Bay Fore­runners coach Joe Burgasser. "He has a run long every week, and it paid off today."

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