TAMPA — Two of the youngest athletes in the field of thousands for Sunday’s Publix Gasparilla 8K were ultimately, and easily, the fastest.
For the second straight year, Oldsmar’s Dylan Nolan, 17, ran away with the 8K men’s title, this time in 26 minutes, 14 seconds, or 44 seconds ahead of the runnerup, another relative youngster in St. Petersburg’s Dylan Bailey, 18.
On the women’s side, tiny Land O’ Lakes middle-schooler Katelin Wilcox won in 32:39, 40 seconds in front of the runnerup, Tampa’s Bridget Brown, 35.
Wilcox? She’s 14.
“It was hot, but it was a lot of fun,” said Wilcox, who last ran the Gasparilla 8K when she was 11, finishing in 35 minutes. “I didn’t really have anybody pressing me too much. I felt good.”
Nolan, who last year won both the Gasparilla 5K and 8K races (but decided on just the 8K this year), didn’t seem to handle the heat on Sunday as well as Wilcox.
Once Nolan crossed the finish line, which he burst through with a relative show of strength, it took a while for him to regain his faculties with some cool towels and water in the shade.
“I forgot to get my nutrition drink from the car and I think that didn’t help,” said Nolan, a senior at Clearwater Central Catholic where he finished in the top 10 at the 2022 state cross country meet. “I always try to run through the finish line strong. It’s a mental thing where you want to look strong. You put on that poker face and don’t let up until it’s over.”
Nolan’s style of pushing hard early, then holding on, is in contrast to Wilcox, who is blessed with speed, which she likes to use more in the second half of races.
Both Nolan and Wilcox, though young, seem to deeply understand their strengths and weaknesses.
“I have some good coaches,” said Nolan, who has competed in the last eight Gasparilla race weekends, including 2015 when he finished 101st in the men’s 5K division at the age of 9. “I’ve also learned a lot.”
Wilcox, meantime, has the benefit of her parents also serving as coaches, two experienced and successful runners in their own rights: Marjorie Wilcox, formerly Marjorie Schmidt, was a running star for Dixie Hollins in 1994, while Steve Wilcox was a runner for Boca Ciega (class of 1988).
The Wilcox family contributes their expertise to the Hillsborough Harriers, a running club to the north. Steve helps mostly with the middle schoolers and younger, a group that numbers around 70.
“First and foremost we keep it fun,” Steve Wilcox said. “We want them to experience the joy you can get from running. That’s the whole idea.”
On Sunday, his daughter, beaming with a big grin, couldn’t have looked happier.
“It’s rewarding to run,” Katelin said. “Today felt very rewarding.”