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St. Petersburg resident runs to TAC marathon title

Dick Ruzicka had two goals going into the Twin Cities Marathon on Oct. 4.

One was to win a gold medal in his age division, 55-59. The other was to average 6 minutes and 30 seconds per mile for 26.2 miles.

Running in his 21st marathon, Ruzicka finished in 2 hours, 51 minutes and 8 seconds, finishing 173rd overall in a field of 6,000. He won the gold medal in The Athletics Congress (TAC) National Masters Championship by seven minutes over his closest rival.

"I was maintaining a 6:24 pace for the first 21 miles," said Ruzicka, a St. Petersburg resident with roots in Elmhurst, Ill. "The 22nd mile was uphill where I slowed to 7:26. From there, I just cruised home. I was running the early miles faster than I planned to but I felt comfortable most of the time."

His average mile pace was 6:32, which translates to 20:18 for 5-kilometers.

Ruzicka, who trained and worked as a pharmacist before becoming a business consultant, trained 70 miles a week for four weeks, two months before the Minneapolis race. Then, favoring a pulled calf muscle from tennis, he cut back to 55 for the next four weeks.

Asked what keeps him going, Ruzicka said it is competition and fellowship.

"Even though runners compete at different levels _ not everyone is as intense as I am _ there is a lot of close fellowship among us," Ruzicka said. "On the competitive level, I'm not as good as some others, but I make up for it by training harder."

Ruzicka, who also won a gold medal in his age division at the TAC 8K at Virginia Beach last spring, credits coach Joe Burgasser of the Forerunners Club of St. Petersburg with helping him reach his potential.

"Joe's coaching has helped me become a better runner," said Ruzicka, who is 5-8 and weighs 140. "He's been a good coach and a good friend. Being a part of his group has been a source of strength. I also credit Jesus Christ as my source of strength."

Lake to Lake: At Lakeland last weekend, Ray Wunderlich of St. Petersburg beat Forerunners teammate Tom Swiersz to capture fourth place in an elite field of 10K runners. Wunderlich clocked 31:59; Swiersz 32:12. The winner was 1992 University of Florida graduate Dan Middleman. He ran 31:07.

Pinellas women took places 2-5 after Wendy Frazier of Gainesville, a UF graduate student.

Judy Mercon, a member of the Dianetic Running Team who trains with Burgasser, won $100 for second place, which she took in 35:54. Barbara Jarnagin of Nike Florida was third in 36:29. Heather Dawson was fourth in 37:57, and Eileen Brinkman was fifth in 41:55.

Wendy Burgasser won the women's 35-39 age division in 43:46. She was narrowly beaten by Cathy Kalway of Seminole, who was first over 40 in 43:01.

In men's age-groups, Burgasser won the 50 and over title in 36:32, while Jim Larson of Team Chicken won the 55-59 division in 38:10.

Trinity Fest 5K: At Port Richey on Saturday, Marc Moseley, 19, of St. Petersburg, dethroned veteran standout Steve Hall, 43, as the winner of this cross country race. Moseley clocked 16:14; Hall, 16:23. John Hosner of Largo was third and Darin Clift, a freshman at Countryside High, fourth.

Clift and women's runner up Shannon Burcham of Palm Harbor are members of the Safety Harbor Youth Track Club. In a sprint to the finish line, Burcham, 13, was out-kicked by Diedre McCarthy by one second. McCarthy, 22, recently moved from Boston to Spring Hill. She's a member of the Sunshine Running Team.

Three other members of the Safety Harbor club won their age division: Adam Brooks, under 10; David Clift, 11-13; and girls 11-13, Erin Giesa.