Moustapha Badid of France took advantage of the relatively flat course to set a world record and score a one-second victory in the men's 15K wheelchair division race. Badid's time of 34:02 was 1:24 faster than the previous world-best time held by Craig Blanchette of Springfield, Ore. Blanchette, the defending Gasparilla champion, finished second in a time of 34:03.
Jean Driscoll of Champaign, Ill., won the female division with a time of 39:27. Tampa's Karen Jacobs, the top local finisher, was sixth in 54:11.
Driscoll and Badid each won $2,200.
"It was too easy (of a) race," said Badid, who took command of the race on the Platt Street Bridge at the 14K mark. "Very flat. On a level course everybody improves but not to the level of the star."
This also was the second consecutive year that the wheelchair division was won in world-record time. Blanchette won last year's race with a time of 37:05, then lowered his record to 35:26 in Seattle in August 1989.
"Winning's not everything, it's going fast," Blanchette said. "And this was fast. This is the best field I've ever raced against. It was the most fun I've ever had."
Just how fast were they going? Well, Blanchette said that, according to the speedometer on his chair, his top speed was 20.6 mph and he averaged 16.3 mph. "Even when braking, I would still be hitting 15 mph," he said.
Winter Park's Jaeger wins 5K
Brian Jaeger of Winter Park pulled away from Tampa's Mark Sheehan with about one mile left in the race and went on to win the men's 5K race in a time of 14:33. Sheehan finished second, 19 seconds off the pace.
"Mark really made it an honest race," Jaeger said, explaining that most American runners like to hold back and then kick hard at the end. "He goes out hard. It was really a battle of attrition."
Cynthia Hopfe of Palm Coast won the women's 5K race with a time of 17:04. St. Petersburg's Bonnie Ramsdell was second in 17:51. "I was cautious at the beginning because of the weather," Hopfe said. "I felt like I could go a lot faster, so at the one-mile mark I took off and left them."
"Mr. Marathon' makes his debut
Johnny Kelley of Cape Cod, Mass., known as Mr. Marathon because of his 58 starts in the Boston Marathon (he won twice and placed second seven times) posted a 1:26:02 in the 15K event.
"I enjoyed it very much," the 82-year-old Kelley said of his first Gasparilla race. "They had a good many water stations on the course, thank goodness. I don't think we could have finished without the water."
High humidity takes its toll
More runners than ever before experienced fluid problems because of the high humidity (97 percent) and hot temperatures (in the 80s).
"A lot of people were volume depleted in this heat," said Steve D'Angelo, a registered nurse coordinating the first-aid station staffed by the Sports Medicine Center at Tampa General Hospital. "It's been very hectic. We expected this ahead of time. Because of the weather, we knew there would be a lot of fluid problems."
D'Angelo also said this was the busiest the first-aid station has been in the last three years.
Odds and ends
Thomas Swiersz of St. Petersburg and Clearwater's Judy Mercon were the top local finishers in the 15K and win trips to compete in the Cascade Run Off in Portland, Ore., in June. Swiersz finished 35th in 48:12 and Mercon's 55:48 left her 16th. Mexico's Mario Cuavas, 40, and Jane Hutchison, 44, of Webb City, Mo., were the men's and women's 15K overall Masters winners with times of 46:31 and 56:58, respectively. Seminole's Yvonne Rogers, 47, and Barry Holcomb, 40, of Temple Terrace each earned a trip to Salt Lake City to run in the TAC Masters Championships in May by being the top local finishers in the 15K Masters division.
_ MIKE VITALE