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USF twins eye spots on Canadian team

Women's area road racing reached a higher level at the recent RYKA Take Fitness To Heart 5K in Tampa.

Canadian twins Tara and Tiffany Quinn, fifth-year seniors at the University of South Florida, finished first and second by wide margins.

Tara's win in 16 minutes, 56 seconds, averaging 5:27 per mile, would have won every Times Turkey Trot 5K except in 1990, when Lisa Vaill set the record with 16:49.

Although the 23-year-old twins from Waterdown, Ontario, aren't eligible to compete for the Bulls this year, their fall training has never been more intense.

Coming off a second-place finish at last spring's NCAA Championships at 10,000 meters in 34:33, Tara, along with Tiffany, set her sights on this fall's Canadian Cross-Country Championships. That meet, contested at 6,000 meters, will be Nov. 30 in New Brunswick.

Canadian officials will use those results to decide who will represent the country at next spring's World Cross Country Championships, set for March 29-30 in Lausanne, Switzerland.

"That's our goal," Tara said. "We really want to pursue the sport to see just how much we can improve."

The twins will represent the Toronto Olympic Club in New Brunswick and at next spring's Canadian Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

Tara's best 5K time is 16:32 on the track. At 10K, she turned in a career-best 33:37 at April's Penn Relays. That time would have placed her second at last year's Times Turkey Trot.

Former Bulls' teammate Christa Benton, a former Keswick Christian star, finished third at last week's NCAA Regional meet at the University of Tennessee to advance as an individual to the NCAA Championships in Terra Haute, Ind., next Monday. The USF women's team had qualified the past four years but missed by one point at this year's regionals.

"Christa is a tough competitor," Tara Quinn said. "She's stronger than she looks, mentally stronger. She's amazing, very genuine. She works very hard and is not at all close to her potential."

Bulls' assistant cross-country coach Rita Arndt, a three-time All-Conference USA selection in track herself, echoed the assessment of Benton.

"Christa's deceivingly strong and talented," Arndt said. "How well she did at regionals is merely indicative of how well she's been running all year. She has that inner fire. Her personal philosophy is "Speak softly and carry a big stick.' That aggressive attitude will enable her to represent USF well at nationals."

Benton will have to finish among the top 25 on Monday to earn all-America first-team honors. However, about 20 percent of the women's field is expected to be foreign runners, ineligible for All-America honors. That should enhance Benton's prospects.

MORE RYKA RACE RESULTS: Vicki Stum of Clearwater finished third (18:39) behind the Quinn sisters.

St. Petersburg's Mary Ann Protz, 46, finished in 19:16 edging out Judy Maguire (19:30) for masters division honors. Largo's Donna Nesslar (19:45) finished 10th and St. Petersburg's Jeanne Lesniak (20:35) was 12th winning the 25-29 age division.

Karin and Maggie Miller of Bradenton won an award for the fastest mother/daughter team.

MAD DASH FOR SADD: St. Petersburg's Bob Villacres continued his winning ways with a 37-second victory Saturday over roommate David Meri. Villacres, a Coast Guard helicopter pilot, won his fourth consecutive race in 16:53 as he preps for the Times Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day.

Cade Rivard of Jesuit High was two seconds behind Meri in third place. Tampa's Emery Jewell, 76, grabbed 70-and-over honors with a 24:20.

In the women's division, Jacki Waller of New Port Richey, a former 2-mile state champion for River Ridge High, ran 19:12 for the win. That was a second faster than her 20-24 age-group win at the Take Fitness to Heart 5K. Her mother, Pat, won the 50-54 age division in 29:36.

Malia Spranger (22:41) finished second at the Mad Dash and Kaia Tershowski of Tampa third in 23:55.

LAKE TO LAKE: In Lakeland, St. Petersburg's Jim Burgasser broke out of a string of second-place finishes to finally take the brass ring.

In a field of about 150, Burgasser, 33, ran a personal-best 35:07 for the win. Forerunners teammate Jim Duncan (36:39) finished second. Not far behind in fourth was Burgasser's age-group nationally ranked father, Joe, in 37:53.

That time for Burgasser, 64, is faster than recent 10K times of Tampa's Don Ardell, another 64-year-old, national-class runner.

They may have another square-off on Thanksgiving Day, though in recent years Burgasser has worked the race as a volunteer with the West Florida Y Runners Club.

In other Lake to Lake results, Erin Lynch, Jim Burgasser's fiancee, finished third (43:43) in the women's division. In the 5K, Bradenton's Mickey Hooke, 41, set a course record of 16:25 winning over Sarasota's Dave O'Meara.

David Putnam (17:51) of Belleair Bluffs was fourth, followed by Joe Costas of Seminole in 19:24. Debra Donald of St. Petersburg ran 22:53 for second among women in a field of about 90 runners.

FINISH LINES: USF coach Arnt is training for April's Boston Marathon. She qualified at last year's Chicago Marathon running 3:04:30. Joe Burgasser and Lisa Valentine are scheduled to run the Dec. 8 California International Marathon from Folsom State Prison to the Capitol grounds in Sacramento. Valentine hopes to better the 2:48 qualifying standard to participate at the 2004 Olympic Marathon Trials in St. Louis. She ran 2:47:47 in Tucson, Ariz., in 1999 to qualify for the 2000 Trials in Columbia, S.C. Amy Begley, winner of last year's Avon Women's race at USF, finished second at the Avon Global Championship 10K this month in Bangkok, Thailand. She clocked 34:06, 11 seconds behind Tegla Loroupe of Kenya, the former world-record holder in the marathon. Saturday's Toadsucker 5K at Tampa's Al Lopez Park will serve as a tuneup for the Turkey Trot. The event starts at 9 a.m. Register online at www.active.com.

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