1. Archive

Tampa mayor unknowingly chips in at finish line

Published Feb. 26, 2006

Tampa mayor Pam Iorio caused a bit of a pre-race chip controversy.

Iorio, wearing a chip to compete in Saturday's Gasparilla Distance Classic 5K, was performing her mayoral duties by preparing to greet finishers at the 15K finish line (which finishes well before the 5K begins).

But the running chip attached to her shoe kept crossing the electronic-sensored finish line, setting off the automatic timer, which confused the 15K results before anyone finished. Back at the results tent, the computer went bonkers every time Iorio passed her foot across the line.

A race official ran out and told Iorio she had to step aside because she was messing up the system.

Iorio gladly stepped to the side, greeting the runners after they finished.

No glitches occurred with any finisher.

"(Iorio) was great about it and we all had a good laugh," Gasparilla race director Susan Harmeling said. "These are just some of the things that make it interesting."

YOUNGEST-OLDEST: Some remarkable performances came from Saturday's youngest and oldest competitors.

Perhaps the most remarkable finish came from Jan Holquist of Burlington, Mass. Holquist, 61, won the women's Grand Masters division (age 50 and older) in the 15K race, finishing in 1 hour, 5 minutes, 46 seconds, almost 40 seconds ahead of the next grand masters competitor, 50-year-old Denise Skinnerof Sarasota.

Or, perhaps, the top performance in the remarkable category might have been Valrico's Grace Vandegrift, who at age 12 placed sixth in the 5K race in 19:27.

Several other youngsters, meantime, ran strong in the 5K, where the top four women finishers were 19 or younger with the winner, Brigithe Moreno, all of 15.

MILLIE! MILLIE! Millie Nuoffer, 89, the oldest competitor at Gasparilla, finished the 5K in 1:03:38.

Nuoffer's accomplishment is all the more notable considering she has survived seven heart attacks, heart failure two months ago and a hernia operation less than three weeks ago. Nuoffer lived in Dunedin for 30 years before moving to Michigan in November after a bout with memory loss to live with her son Dennis.

Dennis, who drove Millie from Michigan to Tampa on Wednesday, walked with his mother through the 3.1-mile race.

Nuoffer said she simply "had to" walk in Saturday's race because she has walked in the previous six Gasparilla 5K races. Doing anything less, she said, "Didn't make sense."

Nuoffer plans to walk in the Gasparilla "As long as I'm kickin'."