Tony Teats never looks back and his time is a record for the race's no-prize-money era.
By JOHN SCHWARB, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 10, 2002
TAMPA -- For Tony Teats it must have felt like December 2000 all over again, running alone on Bayshore Boulevard, with nothing but a finish line and a cheering crowd ahead.
The Oldsmar resident had never run a 15K race, but found as much success at Saturday's Gasparilla Distance Classic as his last Hops Marathon by Tampa Bay, winning with ease in 46 minutes, 36 seconds, a low in the race's no-prize-money era.
"I was surprised that I ran that fast, but I knew I was capable of it," Teats said. "I was pumped up and I knew my adrenaline would be going."
Matt Whaley and Mike Greiwe, last year's second- and third-place finishers, came in with aspirations of winning but fell behind Teats' five-minute mile pace by the midpoint.
Whaley, 24, a former USF runner now working as a volunteer coach at Florida State, finished second again in 48:01. Nathan Adams of Tallahassee, 21, finished third in 48:19 and Tampa's Greiwe, 23, claimed fourth in 48:30.
Teats, 25, planned to run Gasparilla last year and hoped to add a victory to his Hops Marathon win two months earlier, but sat out with bronchitis. This year he geared his training toward the 15K, even using a half-marathon two weeks ago in Naples as a measuring stick (he finished 12th among an elite field).
Such training, combined with the familiarity of a course he had won on and practiced on many times, added up to a comfortable win.
"I felt good enough to where I didn't feel I needed to (look behind at the pack)," said Teats, who did not drink any water during the run. "I knew I had quite a bit of a lead toward the end."
Monica Joyce enjoyed a similar trip in the women's race, winning by 36 seconds in a time of 55:10. The Pinckney, Mich., resident last raced Gasparilla in 1985, setting a personal best. Saturday she returned looking for better weather than back home and wasn't disappointed, as cool conditions were ideal.
Before the race she did a little research, set a game plan and stuck to it.
"I looked at the results from last year and I saw the winning time (Laura Drake's 54:47), and I figured it would kind of turn out like today. I figured I could run around 55 minutes.
"I felt myself catching (the leaders) around 3 miles and I thought, "Well, should I just kind of sit in?' Then I decided no, I'll run my own race and try to maintain my pace the whole way."
The 43-year-old did so, beating Tampa's Lara Shaw, 29, who finished in 55:46. St. Petersburg's Christy Phillips, 39, improved on her 10th-place finish from a year ago by coming in third (56:05), and Clearwater's Judy Maguire, 43, finished fourth but improved on last year's second-place time by clocking 56:33.
One runner was conspicuously absent at the finish line, however. Three-time defending champion Drake, 33, stood poised to break her tie with the legendary Greta Waitz for consecutive Gasparilla wins, but she dropped out at the 4-mile mark with a mysterious left calf injury.
"I have no idea what happened, not a clue," said Drake, formerly of St. Petersburg and now living in Atlanta. "I warmed up fine, felt fine, everything was fine. When I dropped out I couldn't walk anymore."
Drake said it was only the second or third time she had quit a race in 15 years.
"It's a shame to drop out on the 25th running and all, but it would have been really stupid to hurt myself," she said. "I probably could have run a 52 (minute time) today. But not like this, not on one leg."