TAMPA — The family Conrad had a moving reunion Saturday morning — as in moving happily down Bayshore Boulevard in the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 5K.
There were almost 30 Conrads in all, wearing bright blue T-shirts, ranging from 18 months old in a stroller to 90 years old in a bright orange cap leading the way.
Down the final stretch, the group revealed the inspiration for the reunion, cheering, “Team Joe! Team Joe! Team Joe!”
That was for the 90-year-old, Joe Conrad, a retired orthopedic surgeon who has inspired his family over the years in all sorts of ways, perhaps none more so than with his numerous feats in road races.
“We couldn’t be happier to have all of us here doing this with dad,” said son John Conrad, a 63-year-old Hillsborough County criminal judge and frequent partner with his father in previous Gasparilla Distance Classics. “I think everybody (some of whom came from as far away as North Carolina) had a blast.”
“Grandpa Joe,” meantime, was ecstatic but not too forthcoming with commentary.
“I am so thankful for all of this,” said Joe, a Stuart resident who has run many marathons and set several age-group records along the way. “I just hope I can come back again next year and do it again.”
For the record, Joe Conrad finished in 59 minutes, 28 seconds.
Cross country contingent
These days, Joshua King is used to big finishes.
In November, the 17-year-old placed sixth at the Florida High School Athletic Association’s Class 4A cross country championship, running a 15:52.32 5K to pace Steinbrenner High School and lead the Warriors to their first team state championship in the sport.
The high school cross country season might be over, but Saturday, King took to Bayshore for the Gasparilla Distance Classic 15K, finishing 12th overall with a time of 52:55.
And King wasn't the only Warrior on the course.
Ten of the top-50 finishers ran cross country at Steinbrenner last season, all but one of whom are 16 or 17 years old.
“It was hectic at first. There were a lot of people, it was cold outside. But we just grouped up our team, we did our warmup,” King said about his running squad. “The boys love this race. Every single year we try and do it.”
The Steinbrenner Invitational, a high school track meet, took place at their school at the same time as the Gasparilla 15K on Saturday morning, but 25 runners from the Steinbrenner squad skipped it in favor of the Distance Classic.
For Ethan Bhatt, 16, it was a nice opportunity to do some offseason bonding with his teammates. Even better was watching King lead the way.
“It’s great just being out here together,” said Bhatt, who placed 22nd with a time of 55:17. “(King) was way ahead. I saw him at the beginning and I was like, ‘Yes!’”
As a senior at Steinbrenner, King’s prep cross country days are over. The state champion, who finished 15th in his first Gasparilla 15K last year, will graduate in May and move on to college, where he hopes to continue his athletic career.
“I do really want to run somewhere in college, either in Florida or Kentucky, because I’m from there,” King said. “Anywhere I can get an opportunity to run in college, I’d be blessed to take it.”
Fulfilling a ‘fantasy’
Saturday morning’s 5K was hardly another day at the office for elementary school administrator Casey Maker. It only appeared that way.
An assistant principal at St. Petersburg’s Midtown Academy, Maker did the race toting a briefcase and wearing a business suit — tie included. The gesture fulfilled his fantasy football league’s written agreement for the individual who finished last.
“It all started when you draft (exiled receiver) Antonio Brown in the second round,” said Maker, 32. “I don’t think we need to say anymore. I’m the clown today, but he has been (one) all year.”
Maker said the attire got a bit warm at the race’s outset, when the hearty wind was to the runners’ backs, but insulated him nicely when the course turned northward into a headwind.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be here,” Maker said. “Unfortunately I am now, but you know what, worst to first next year.”
Staff writer Joey Knight and correspondent Kelly Parsons contributed to this report.