Tennis, golf, running. Heather Dawson, women's winner of the Radisson Summer Sundown cross-country race Friday, does them all.
Tennis came first, the sport she played for four years at Lakewood High (class of '81) and still plays but not as competitively. Two years out of high school, when she started to put on a few unwanted pounds, Dawson (then Burkhalter) took up running and found out she had some untapped talent in endurance races.
She has posted a best time of 17:36 for 5K, winning the 1989 Grand Prix race in St. Petersburg. She also won the 5K at Bay to Bay and the Butterfly Run at Largo Mall in 1990. Last month Dawson won the Law Day 5K in 18:09, and took fourth in the Fort De Soto Biathlon in March.
Last year, with the encouragement of her husband, Chuck, Dawson took up golf and began playing every weekend at Mangrove Bay golf course.
"I'm very competitive," said Heather Dawson, who works full time as a trainer for Allstate Insurance. "When I go into a sport, I go in full force."
Her best golf score is 94, "with no Mulligans," Dawson said. "Golf is relaxing there's time to listen to the birds."
Dawson, 28, led the women's field all the way at the Sundown race at Sand Key Park in Clearwater winning in 18:46. "We had to jump over puddles and we sunk in soft beach sand but it's fun," Dawson said. "I prefer cross country to road races. I have to concentrate and watch where I'm going. Therefore, time goes faster. Road races are sometimes boring and you can lose your concentration easily."
Dawson was on her way to a top-5 finish among women at the 7.5-mile Bay-to-Bay race two weeks ago when her breathing mechanism malfunctioned.
"I was a block from the finish line when I started choking," Dawson said. "I felt like I was drowning. Leanne Larison came past me and offered some encouragement as I walked toward the finish line, then another woman (Mary Dougherty) passed me right in front of the finish line." Still, she finished in a respectable time of 48:26, good for the second place award in the 25-29 age division.
"I plan to stay with the summer series at Sand Key Park," said Dawson, a member of the Suncoast Runners Club. "First place in the series wins a weekend stay at the Radisson. I'm looking forward to it."
Race results: Carolyn Mather and Brianne Harrington, both of St. Petersburg, finished second and third among the women competing at Sand Key Park. Harrington is a student at St. Jude School. The top three men in the field of 170 were: Travis Grappo (16:30), a Lakewood High graduate now competing for the University of South Florida; Dan Clark (16:45), a Boca Ciega graduate who runs cross country for Florida; and Scott Brane, a 1990 Largo High graduate.
Mather, 42, came back and raced Sunday in the Bayshore Runners Club's summer series 5K at Horizon Park and placed second again, this time in 19:43. The first woman was Loretta Simeon (17:58), a former Countryside High runner. The overall winner was Chris Squires (17:02) of Tampa, followed by Cope Bradley (17:32), also of Tampa. The first Pinellas finisher was John Hosner, 32, a Largo dentist who finished fifth.
At the Cotton Row 10K, in Huntsville, Ala., Joe Burgasser placed third in the 50-54 age division in 37:04. Forerunners teammate Dick Ruzicka (38:20) was fifth in the same age group. Wendy Burgasser clocked 46:58.
National scene: The site of the women's Olympic marathon trials has been changed from Long Beach, Calif., to the Houston Marathon on Jan. 26. The men's team will consist of the top three finishers at Columbus, Ohio, on April 18. The track and field trials are in New Orleans, June 19-28, 1992. The top three finishers in The Athletics Congress Championships in New York City this June 12-15 will represent the U.S. at the World Championships in Tokyo Aug.
1. Track and Field News picks Teresa Vaill, 28, of Brooksville, to place second in the 10K race-walk.
Local scene: The Run to Bridge the Bay (5 and 10K) across the new Howard Frankland Bridge is July 20 at 8 a.m. Application forms are not yet available.