TAMPA — Sara Petrick of Tampa has run the Gasparilla Distance Classic 15-kilometer course too many times to count. The former University of Florida cross country runner went to the Academy of the Holy Names, which sits on Bayshore Boulevard.
"I am very familiar with this course," said Petrick, 27, who won the women's race Saturday in 55 minutes, 49 seconds, "so that is why I try to go out hard."
She took off strong, perhaps too strong, but quickly separated herself from the opposition. "I went out a little too hard, probably around 5:35," she said. "But after a couple of miles I settled into a 5:45 pace and that proved to be fast enough."
Petrick, who won the same event in 2012 with a time of 54:59, said she has kept her mileage up in recent months, but much of it has been on a treadmill.
"I have a group of middle-age men that I train with out of the running center," she said. "They are really fast, and they keep me in terrific shape."
Like men's champion Jonathon Mott, Petrick said she was saving her energy for today's half-marathon.
"I have never done back-to-back races," she confessed. "I'll be at the starting line, but I am going to play it by ear and see how I feel."
Seminoles show: Florida State had a strong showing with several members of the women's cross country team lining up for the 15K. Carly Thomas, a sophomore from Tallahassee, finished second in the women's field in 57:24.
The second-year Seminole is battling for a spot in the top seven after being an alternate on last season's NCAA championship team. Thomas, who plans to major in sports management, opened the 2013 track season with a personal-best in the 5,000 meters at the Florida Relays with a time of 17:23.57 and placed 15th at the ACC championships in her first competitive 10,000 meters with a time of 36:29.71.
The other race: The 15K drew nearly 6,000 runners, but the 5K turned out to be a real crowd-pleaser with more than 14,000 walkers, joggers and runners registered on race day. Alexander Main, 20, of Odessa won it in 15:37, followed by Jake Poore, 18, of Land O'Lakes in 16:08; Alex Hubartt, 24, of Orlando in 16:14; Bryan Wesley Reynolds, 23, of Gulfport in 16:22; Dylan Sadowsky, 17, of Lakeland in 16:54. Women's winner Jess Butler, 24, of Coral Springs was next at 17:04; then came Leonel Ochoa, 15, of Tampa in 17:06; Daniel Bergeson, 49, of Oldsmar in 17:14; Nat Glackin, 31, of St. Petersburg in 17:17 and Pedro Meraz, 35, of Wesley Chapel in 17:30.