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Kristen Tenaglia prevails over jitters, wind to take Gasparilla 15K title

The overall women’s winner from Seminole was the runnerup a year ago when the starting temperature was a toasty 69 degrees.
Seminole's Kristen Tenaglia, last year's runnerup, finishes first overall among the 15K's women in 54:07.08 during the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic on Saturday in Tampa.
Seminole's Kristen Tenaglia, last year's runnerup, finishes first overall among the 15K's women in 54:07.08 during the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic on Saturday in Tampa. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Feb. 22, 2020
Updated Feb. 22, 2020

TAMPA — A year after enduring unseasonably oppressive heat at the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 15K, Kristen Tenaglia had the temperatures and a toddler on her side Saturday morning.

Embracing the bay area’s weekend blast of frigid air, but not necessarily the accompanying gusts, the 35-year-old Seminole resident dominated the women’s field with a prevailing time of 54 minutes, 8 seconds.

“I’m super excited,” she said.

Land O’Lakes’ Adrienne Zwijacz, a 30-year-old grade-school counselor, was second (55:54).

“The training’s been going fairly well, so I just felt like if it was gonna happen, it was probably gonna be today,” added Tenaglia, last year’s 15K runner-up.

“All things kind of aligned; I felt great, the weather was good. It’s a good feeling.”

Related: For this frigid Gasparilla 15K, seems fitting to have a Canadian dominate

As a local resident, Tenaglia earned a $2,000 winner’s purse. A sales representative for New Balance and former runner at Miami of Ohio, her time Saturday was nearly a minute and a half faster than 2019 (57:14), when the start-time temperature was 69 degrees.

Land O' Lakes' Adrienne Zwijacz finishes second among the women in 55:54 during the 15K on Saturday.
Land O' Lakes' Adrienne Zwijacz finishes second among the women in 55:54 during the 15K on Saturday. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]

But Saturday’s refreshing crispness came with a price: a vicious headwind as the field of nearly 5,800 runners made the turn on Gandy Boulevard and headed back north along Bayshore.

The wind-chill at the race’s outset was announced at 38 degrees. Rob Mason, who has competed in every Gasparilla since its debut in 1978, said Saturday’s weather was the coldest he could recall.

Related: Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic: Find results here

“We knew the wind was going to be a factor,” said three-time 15K champ Jon Mott, Zwijacz’s coach. “It is every year.”

On this morning, Tenaglia had the cheering of her husband Vince and 18-month-old son Rocco to help buoy her against the brutal forces and an abnormal case of pre-race jitters.

“I was so nervous," she said. "I used to get really nervous back when I was younger and then it kind of went away. But I was super nervous for this race, and I don’t really know why, so I was trying to do everything that I have done before races that I’ve done well at.”

Related: Gasparilla 5K is a true family affair for 90-year-old Joe Conrad

Belying her butterflies was a 5:48 per-mile pace that modified at the Gandy turn. Overall winner Phil Parrot-Migas clocked sub-five-minute miles before hitting the headwind.

“Heading out with the wind at your back, my pace was probably a little bit faster than I was expecting, then when I turned around it dropped significantly,” Tenaglia said.

“Then I kind of picked it up towards the end. Thankfully, I kind of tucked in behind a guy for the last couple of miles.”