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Husband, wife shine in debut

Amy Yoder Begley wins the women's race, and her husband, Andrew, finishes second on the men's side.

By JOHN SCHWARB, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 5, 2003

TAMPA -- Andrew and Amy Yoder Begley are first-year snowbirds, calling Temple Terrace home for four months as a winter training base. They are full-time runners, usually targeting races with prize money or national prestige.

The Gasparilla Distance Classic 15K offers neither. But like thousands of other resident runners, the Begleys took to the starting line on a cold Saturday morning.

Perhaps, like so many others, they now will be hooked on the 26-year-old Tampa tradition. After all, an hour's worth of their time appeared well spent.

Amy, 24, won the women's 15K in 52 minutes, 21 seconds, setting a record in the no-prize-money era that began in 1999. Andrew, in his first serious 15K, finished second behind Ronnie Holassie.

"This is good preparation," said Amy, who beat Laura Drake's 2000 mark of 52:59. "A 5:35 (minute-mile pace) was the game plan."

No other woman had that plan or the ability to execute it. Farrell Burns of Charlotte, N.C., took second, more than three minutes later in 55:42.

Amy, an NCAA champion in the indoor 5K and outdoor 10K at Arkansas, said she plans to run the Naples half-marathon later this month then the 8K cross-country nationals in Houston. She does not compete often at the 15K level but had no problem with it on a wind-free morning ideal for running.

Neither did her husband, except for an Olympic marathoner who did not let up. Holassie, a Miramar resident who ran in Atlanta and Sydney for Trinidad, maintained a five-minute pace throughout the 15K and finished in 46:40, four seconds off of the record set by Oldsmar's Tony Teats last year.

"It's a strong run for me," Holassie said. "If anyone was challenging me, I definitely would have pushed a little harder. But I just felt I needed to run a five-minute pace."

Holassie was sidelined from August 2001 to September 2002 with a hamstring injury and had been building up his mileage again before Gasparilla. He said he is targeting the inaugural Miami Tropical Marathon on Feb.2, where he hopes to better his personal-best of 2:13 and win part of the $50,000 purse.

Holassie, 31, lived in Tampa from 1991-92, working briefly in the stables at Tampa Bay Downs before moving to the Miami area. He ran the Gasparilla 5K during the early 1990s then gave the 15K increased thought last year, when he visited his brother and watched him compete in the 5K.

With a phone call to the Gasparilla Distance Classic Association earlier this week, he received a free spot in the race. And once on the downtown streets, he only frustrated runners such as Begley.

"I knew from past results the last couple of years that 46:30 to 47 minutes would be right up there," said Andrew, 26, who clocked 47:18. "I kind of thought that I'd reel him in. He just kept going.

"He had about eight seconds on me at (1) mile, probably his biggest lead at 5K. I was like, 'You know what? He's somebody good. I don't know who he is."'

Andrew said he still was pleased and he and Amy likely will return next winter from their home in Kendallville, Ind.

"The Tampa/northern Florida area is probably one of the best for winter racing in the country," Andrew said. "You can't beat it."

Cory Presnick, a former Citrus High standout now at Florida, finished third in 48:04.

Luanne Coulter, 41, of Charlotte, N.C., was the women's masters winner with a 58:45. Mark Tensing, 43, of Cincinnati was the top men's master at 51:51.

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