TAMPA — As the defending Gasparilla Half Marathon champion, Terri Rejimbal knew she would be viewed as a favorite Sunday. And that had the Tampa resident worried.
"I'd rather be the underdog," she said, laughing.
Rejimbal, though, navigated the 13.1-mile course she frequently trains on in a personal-best time of 1 hour, 22 minutes, 18 seconds to claim her second straight title at the Gasparilla Distance Classic.
"I'm just so glad it's over," Rejimbal said. "I was just so nervous. I hate having to defend my title. It puts the pressure on."
Rejimbal, 41, who also claimed the Masters women's title, maintained a comfortable pace throughout, ahead of second-place Jessica Crate, a Melbourne resident who ran 1:23:06.
"Last year, I (ran a personal best) in horrible conditions, so this year was better conditions," Rejimbal said. "I worked for this. It paid off."
Orlando's Steve Curley, 23, took the lead at the 1-mile mark and pulled away to win the men's race in 1:11:47.
A standout at Winter Park Trinity Prep and Villanova, Curley had never won a race longer than 10 kilometers before Sunday. He was a first-time entrant in the Gasparilla Half Marathon.
"I'll be back," he said. "I like it a lot."
Daytona Beach's Henry Melius, 20, claimed second in 1:14:48.
Tampa's Matthew Altimari, 19, had the best finish among bay area racers, 15th in 1:20:15.
Tampa's Anthony Black claimed the men's Grand Masters division. The 53-year-old just beat Barry Lewis of Philadelphia to the line, finishing in 1:21:29.