Another Gasparilla first for 13-year-old Ellie Pleune

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn gives a congratulatory fist bump to 13-year-old Ellie Pleune.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn gives a congratulatory fist bump to 13-year-old Ellie Pleune.
Published Feb. 26, 2017

TAMPA — Going into Sunday's Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 8K, 13-year-old Ellie Pleune had already made history a day earlier by taking the women's 5K and becoming the youngest winner in 40 years.

So the Benito Middle School eighth-grader figured she would do her best to close the weekend in style with yet another first. She just didn't expect to actually do it.

Though understandably sore from Saturday's performance, Pleune never showed it. The Tampa teen easily broke away and cruised down Bayshore Boulevard to a second victory, in 31 minutes, 13 seconds, a minute-and-a-half faster than runnerup Stefanie Shimansky, 27, of Winter Springs (32:43).

"I was like, I'll try my hardest and hope to get in the top three," said Pleune, who races competitively with the Hillsborough Harriers youth running team.

"I guess I just won."

Averaging a pace of 6:16 per mile, Pleune reached the long green banner at the finish line to raucous applause from onlookers up and down the street. She then shook hands with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who had stopped to personally congratulate her on the performance.

Pleune humbly treated it like just another morning jog.

"It's pretty good," she admitted with a smile. "It's pretty cool."

Jeremy Richardson of Oldsmar was never tested in the men's race, winning in 28 minutes, six seconds over Land O'Lakes' Lee Rietsma (28:34), 39.

A triathlete who estimates he runs about 40 miles and bikes 200-250 miles per week, the 27-year-old Richardson hardly slowed on the course, making the sharp U-turn on Mason Avenue for the final stretch long before any other runners were close to reaching it.

At the line, he extended his arms high — holding the No. 1 — and shouted in celebration.

"As soon as the first half-mile started, I looked around and no one was with me," Richardson said. "I was thinking if I could hold that, I should get the win and it would be a good day."

It was more than a good day for Richardson, and an even better weekend for Pleune.

"It's not that usual that you get a 13-year-old winning both events," she said.

So unusual she now sits alone as the only one.