Jon Dennis, who has won two consecutive NCAA 5,000-meter track championships, may not be as famous in Tampa as the late Steve Prefontaine was in Eugene, Ore., but he would like to be.
Dennis showed up Friday night at Harbour Island and ran away from a field of 700 to win the fifth annual Run America 5K in 14:46. The race was sponsored by WTVT Channel 13 as a fund-raiser for the March of Dimes.
"The reason I ran this is because I rarely get to race in front of people from Tampa, and I do live here. I'm part of this community," said Dennis.
After an opening mile of 4:36, Dennis bounced alone through downtown Tampa as people stepped out of offices, bars, and restaurants to yell his name. Apparently, some people in Tampa did see Dennis run the last 100 meters of his NCAA 5,000-meter race on television last Sunday.
Lou Villarosa Jr. took second and was the top master in a time of 16:42. After leading the chase pack most of the way, former Leto star Tom Castelli faded to third in 16:56. John Hosner of St. Petersburg was fourth in 16:59, and Tom Ochoa of Brandon took fifth in 17:03.
Susan Anderson of Tampa Palms, who considers herself a triathlete and only runs about 25 miles a week, easily took the women's race in 18:08.
"I love this race," Anderson said. "I won it last year and I like running through downtown Tampa as the sun is going down. The weather was really hot, though. I needed to drink more water than I did."
Anderson, who won the Gasparilla 5K in February, nailed first place early by hammering an opening mile in 5:21.
Second-place finisher Tina Mayolo of Miami didn't know there was a race until about 30 minutes before the start. "I work for Molsen's as a beer distributor and I was at Cha-Cha Coconuts closing an account when someone told me there was a race across the street," she said. "I found some shorts and changed and jumped in."
Mayolo, wearing the shirt she worked in, finished with a fine time of 18:57.
Mary Knight of Tampa was third in 19:07, Tina Pontini took fourth in 19:28, and Ann Russo of the Fleet Feet team held off Kimberly McCollum to take fifth, 20:03 to 20:04.
Carol Fox of the Fleet Feet team was the top female master in a time of 20:30.