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St. Petersburg man Ferreira finds success at end of Trail

The day after Mike Ferreira of St. Petersburg ran in the National Championship 15K in Jacksonville, the annual Gate River Run, he bounced back smartly and finished first and second in the two Friendship Trail Bridge races.

The bridge races were held on the Pinellas side of the old Gandy Bridge last Sunday.

Ferreira, 36, a member of the Coast Guard, wore training shoes in winning the opening event, the 8K (4.97 miles) in 28:18, then returned an hour later for a second-place finish in the 5K (17:57) behind Shorecrest Prep junior Matt Mosby (16:48).

"I really focused on the 15K in Jacksonville, hoping to improve on my 15K time from Gasparilla," Ferreira said.

"It was great to be there among such a strong field, having a seeded number. But I made the mistake of going out too fast, and I paid for it.

"I got into oxygen debt and experienced lactic acid build-up by going through the two-mile mark in 11 minutes even," Ferreira said. "That was about 15 seconds too fast, and I paid for it."

Ferreira finished 17th of 630 in his age division and 67th overall in 53:28 _ an improvement over his time of 54:16 in Gasparilla on Feb. 24.

"The River Run in Jacksonville has some hills in it," Ferreira said, "but we didn't have to deal with the heat, air quality and strong winds that Gasparilla had this year. I prepared well for Jacksonville, but it was just another learning experience.

"My leg speed is just coming back from all the miles I put in last summer training for the Marine Corps Marathon. I averaged 83 a week last summer. Now I'm down to 70 a week."

Ferreira's next marathon will be Boston in 2002. He ran 2:37 there last year for a coveted top-100 finish. He was 98th overall.

Forerunners teammate Steve Wilcox was one competitor who reeled in Ferreira, and Bill Rodgers, 53, of Boston Marathon fame, was another.

Wilcox went on to finish in 58th overall in 52:52, good for 12th place of 630 runners in his 30-34 age division.

Rodgers submitted a time of 52:24 for a rare age 50-plus setback at the hands of Indiana's Gary Romesser, who had been fifth overall in Gasparilla.

Dan Ecker of the Forerunners ran a personal-best 15K of 55:23 in Jacksonville, good for 17th of 630 in the 30-34 class. Dan Nolan of the St. Pete Mad Dogs was 12th of 705 in the 40-44 age division in 56:58.

Kim Donaldson, 39, of the Forerunners was the only Pinellas award winner in Jacksonville.

The two-time Ocala Marathon winner ran a swift 59-minutes flat, a 6:21 per-mile pace, for third (among 546 runners) in the 35-39 division.

THE BIG PICTURE: The battle for first in Jacksonville was between the 10K national champions of 1999 and 2000.

Alan Culpepper of Colorado won in 1999 and Meb Keflezighi of California won last year in the meet that also served as the Olympic Trials.

Keflezighi prevailed this time in 43:16. Culpepper was second in 43:37. They won $10,000 and $4,000, respectively.

Rod DeHaven, the USA's lone male marathoner in last year's Olympics, finished fifth _ one place behind last December's Holiday Classic 10K winner, Mike Donnelly of Rhode Island.

The women's championship in Jacksonville was even closer.Deena Drossin of Colorado edged (49:09) California's Sylvia Mosqueda (49:22).

Kim Pawelek of Jacksonville, who won the Saucony Super Run 5K in downtown St. Petersburg in January, finished 10th in 53:01.

FRIENDSHIP TRAIL: Amelia Griffith of Tampa took the women's 8K title in 30:34, outdistancing Jeanne Lesniak (32:15) of St. Petersburg and Madeleine Zolfo (32:24) of Treasure Island.

Among a field of 180 runners in the 5K, it was rare to have teenagers finish 1-2 in the women's event. And these teenagers are 13!

Melissa Kotchman, a seventh-grader at Indian Rock Christian, ran shoulder-to-shoulder with Tara Gruber of Flower Mound, Texas, for the first half of the race before pulling away for a convincing victory in 19:20. Gruber finished 18 seconds later.

"I didn't know if I could beat her," said Kotchman, sixth in last fall's Class A state cross country championships. "I wanted to break away at 1.5 miles and I did. I thought I was struggling, but I held on and finished strong."

Kotchman was expecting to run Saturday at Largo Central Park in the Road Runners Club of America's Southern Regional 5K Championship.

TRAVELING TEAM: A group of West Florida Y Runners Club members are leaving this weekend for Italy to run the March 25 Rome Marathon.

Times Turkey Trot director Skip Rogers will be running his 13th 26.2-mile event and Pinellas/Pasco Circuit Court Judge Deanna Farnell her 18th.

The delegation includes Dick and Julia Buckley, Martha Galloway, Joyce Rogers, Judge Crockett Farnell, Deanna's husband, and their son, Matt Abbey, 16, a student at Shorecrest Prep.

"I'm hoping to improve on the time 3:30 I ran at the Hops Marathon last December," said Deanna Farnell, a former winner of the Tallahassee Marathon. "After Rome, I'm looking forward to a return trip to the Boston Marathon, my ninth consecutive running there."

SCHEDULE NEWS: The Seminole Stampede at Walsingham Park is scheduled for April 28.

A 10K is planned, along with a 5K. Both will start at 8:15 a.m. For an entry form, call the Seminole Chamber of Commerce, 392-3245.

The Gulfside Gallop 5K will be held at Indian Rocks Beach on April 7 at 8 a.m. For an entry form, call 595-9741 or 517-0404.