Jody Spangler is getting pretty tired of looking at dreadlocks bounding off ahead of him, and it happened again Saturday in the 21st annual Flatlanders Challenge.
Tampa resident Muchapiwa Mazano, his head crowned with floppy dreads, breezed away early and cruised in to win the 10-kilometer race in 32 minutes, 40 seconds.
Spangler, a former state champion 2-miler at Hernando High, finished third behind Gary Crossan, but watching the 27-year-old Zimbabwean win again seemed to bother him more.
Mazano has cost him more than angst.
"That guy has cost me about $600 and a plane ticket," Spangler said Saturday. "Every race I run in Florida where there's money in it, he's always there. And he's always one or two spots ahead."
True to Spangler's assessment, Mazano, a graphics designer, ran in a 5K at the University of South Florida later Saturday and in a half-marathon in Naples on Sunday. He slowed his blistering pace by mid-race to conserve energy for those runs.
"When you have so many races you try to save so I can be a good runner (Saturday) and (Sunday)," he said. "In that way it is good to run with slow people."
Spangler won the Flatlanders event in 1993 and finished second to Mazano last year.
Spangler, who occasionally "chats" with Mazano, said the closest he ever finished behind him was 10 seconds, in a 4-mile race in Palatka last summer. Mazano once beat Spangler in a race at USF where the grand prize was a free plane ticket to anywhere in the United States.
Spangler, who is the interim head coach of the Florida State cross country team, understood the loss as he has not been able to train full-time, but that did not make it any more palatable.
"It's been pretty hard to train," he said. "When I do something I like to do it 100 percent, so in that sense its been frustrating. I'm a competitor "
The Flatlander's race was anything but frustrating for Lisa and Teresa Vaill, Brooksville-based twins and Olympic hopefuls. Lisa, who was the top woman (11th overall in 36:02) used the race as a breeze-through in her training for the Feb. 26 United States Olympic Marathon Trials. Teresa, a race-walker, competed for a change of pace in her training.
Lisa Vaill doubled back after winning the race and finished again with Teresa.
"I do it just for the training," Teresa Vaill said. "When we train, I usually start in the opposite way and when we meet, it doesn't seem like you're working by yourself."
Citrus High's Cory Presnick, winner of the University of Florida Invitational and the Class 2A state cross country championship, was the highest-placing high school runner. He finished fourth overall in 33:40.
Brooke Bastien, a former Central High All-Gulf Coast Athletic Conference co-athlete of the year who is now a sophomore at Florida State, won the 2-mile fun run in 12:18.