By DAVE THEALL
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 10, 2002
TAMPA -- Jesuit High School freshman Andy Biladeau heard footsteps during the 5K event, footsteps that followed him all the way to the finish line on Bayshore Boulevard.
But the 14-year-old never wavered as he ran a steady, even pace to win the shorter event on the Gasparilla program Saturday in a time of 15:35, three seconds ahead of Michael Bown, 30, of Hamilton, Ontario.
Biladeau, who finished fourth in last fall's Class 2A high school state cross-country meet, took an early, narrow lead, covering the first mile in 4:52 and went through mile 2 in 9:53. Bown remained the stalker, sizing up his prey over the last mile, while Biladeau prepared for his final drive.
"I knew he was right behind me but I kept telling myself I was going to win, not lose it at the end," Biladeau said. "I didn't want that guy to steal at that point.
"It's an honor to win this race considering the runners, such as Rolf Steier, who have won it in past years. Winning it was a long-term goal of mine that I achieved sooner than I'd expected."
Bown used a different strategy going for the win.
"I planned to let him block the wind for me and hoped to run him down at the end," said Bown, who was visiting with his parents in Clearwater. "But at the end I found out he had a strong kick."
Colin Strickland, from Brandon, finished third in 16:04, followed by Aaron Caruso (16:24) and Shawn Patterson, both members of the Florida State track team.
Laura Melendez, a member of coach Bob Braman's track team, used a different approach than Biladeau's to earn the women's title.
She started conservatively covering the first mile in 5:46, then started reeling out other women competitors. Just after the 2-mile mark on Magnolia Street, she overtook Vicki Stum of Clearwater and continued to build on her margin, crossing the finish line with a broad smile in 18:04. She finished 29th overall in the field of 7,213.
"I just kept pushing; I was running out of energy but I knew I had to keep pushing and I did," said Melendez, a Seminole freshman from the San Francisco bay area. "It was my first road race and I won."
Stum held on for second place in 18:21, followed by Lauren Rhatigan (18:33) of Brant Beach, N.J., and FSU runners Amanda Jordan (18:48) and Suzanne Shepherd (18:52).