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CLEARWATER -- At the 4-mile mark of Saturday's 10-kilometer Say No to Drugs Holiday Classic, a blanket could have covered four front-runners racing along the course on Clearwater Beach at a sub-five-minute pace.
Then James Carney of State College, Pa., accelerated, still about 2.2 miles from the finish. The question was whether he made his bold move too soon only to pay for it later.
The answer soon became apparent. The 24-year-old graduate student at Penn State never let up and won easily in 30:16, a 4:53 per-mile pace.
"I didn't want to make my move too soon," Carney said, "and I didn't want to wait to the end to kick. I'm not too confident about my speed. I'm a strength runner looking to divide the race in two phases: the first 4 and the last 2.2."
Andrew Begley of Kendallville, Ind., led by a half-step through the first mile on Memorial Causeway in 4:51. The pack included Ronnie Holassie of Miami, Andrew Smith, a senior at USF via Toronto, and Muchapiwa Mazano of Tampa via Mozambique.
But Holassie, a two-time Olympic marathoner for Trinidad and Tobago, held on for second (30:41) and Brian Erb of Wise, Va., moved up to fifth (33:26), just behind Smith, for the final prize-money position.
The women's race was less dramatic. Favorite Amy Begley, Andrew's wife and a two-time NCAA champion (5K and 10K) at Arkansas, led from the get-go, finishing 13th overall in 34:21.
"I wanted to run a 5:15 pace today but settled for a 5:30," Begley said. "I've been running 14 miles a day this week, except (Friday), so I didn't peak for this race. If someone had come up on me, I would have run faster."
Begley was followed by last year's winner, Ramilia Burangulova of Russia, who trains in winter in Gainesville, in 35:01. Lisa Vaill (35:11), also a winter resident of Gainesville, was next. Russian Tatiana Titova (36:18) finished fourth and Clearwater's Vicki Stum, the Times Turkey Trot winner, was fifth in 36:50.
Stum and Mazano were the Tampa Bay Cup winners as the first finishers from the bay area.
Kenny Jesensky, 19, of Orlando narrowly won the concurrent 5K race in 16:00 over Jeff Masterson, a sophomore at Mitchell High. In the women's division Judy Maguire, 44, took the title in 18:33, good for 21st overall.
There were 336 finishers in the 5K and 251 in the 10K on a cool, crisp morning.