CLEARWATER — Sara Petrick gave little thought to cutting back her mileage to be fresh for Thursday's Times Turkey Trot 10K.
Petrick, the defending champion in the 6.2-mile race, trains seven days a week, logging 5-20 miles at a clip.
She is one of two Floridian female marathoners to qualify for January's Olympic Trials. Though her chances of being one of the three to make the United States team for the London Games in August are remote, Petrick is running nearly 90 miles a week in preparation.
Still, Petrick, a former standout at Tampa's Academy of the Holy Names and the University of Florida, had enough wherewithal to hold off her challengers and win in 35 minutes, 48 seconds.
"I wanted to run a sub-36 race," Petrick said. "I didn't know if I was capable of doing that because I ran 12 miles on Wednesday and I didn't feel that great when I was warming up."
Petrick was counting the Turkey Trot as part of her training. But there was incentive to finish first.
"I got a free pair of shoes for winning from the team that I run for," Petrick said. "And that's big because my shoes only last about three months from all the training."
Petrick surged ahead in the first mile before hearing footsteps from behind. The two stayed side by side until the final half-mile, when the challenger mysteriously pulled out of the race.
"I still have no idea who that was and why she decided not to finish the race," Petrick said of the women, who was unknown even to race officials. "My only guess is she was not registered. I'm glad she was there because she helped push me toward a better time."
Christa Stephens (formerly Benton), whose five-year reign as champion ended last year, finished as the runnerup for the second straight year in 37:45.
Jake Brooks, a Florida State runner from Fort Myers, won the men's race in 32:11.
"Our cross country season is over, and I wanted to do this race because it's a great event and a good workout," said Brooks, who finished second two years ago.
Nick Miehe built a lead by flying through the first mile. Miehe could not keep up his pace, which started slowing by the third mile.
Brooks churned the last three miles at a steadier pace, catching Mia and making a final push in the backstretch to hold off a pack of runners. Elias Gonzalez, a former champion, was second in 32:15.
"The second half of the race is when you win it," Brooks said. "That's where the battle begins. I just wanted to have a nice, even pace and be there at the end."
Ryan Ripley defended his title in the 5K (3.1 mile), winning in 14:57. Former Seminole High standout and current University of Tampa runner Heather Nicolosi won her first 5K in 17:15.
"The cross country nationals were last week, so it gave me a chance to run this race," Nicolosi said. "I was happy with being able to go under 18 minutes."
Daniel Wehunt and Kristen Courcelle won the 1-mile in 4:19 and 5:51, respectively.
Bob Putnam can be reached at [email protected]