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Organizers exceed goal of 10,000 participants


© St. Petersburg Times, published January 5, 2003

TAMPA -- While some members of the area running community have a hard time putting "Gasparilla" and "January" together, the Gasparilla Distance Classic Association pulled off the feat in staging its signature races during the year's first month for the first time.

Race director Susan Harmeling knew the 2002 total of 14,000 runners in the 15K and 5K would be untouchable, so she set a goal of 10,000.

The final tally for Saturday: 10,008, with 4,809 in the 15K and 5,199 in the 5K.

"So I'm happy," Harmeling said. "Under the circumstances, we did very well."

The GDCA added a few touches to make it feel more like February and the traditional Gasparilla time, such as bringing in pirate-clad volunteers to greet runners at the finish and pose for pictures.

More important, the most unpredictable factor turned out fine. Cool temperatures helped entries and runners' spirits.

"I think it helped everybody. It didn't stress anybody out," Harmeling said. "The worst medical problem we had was handing out Kleenex at the finish line because everybody's noses were running.

"That's a nice problem to have."

WHEELCHAIR RERUN: The 15K wheelchair race was a carbon copy of last year with St. Petersburg's Scott McNeice beating training partner Michael Bond.

"I can't feel my hands, but it was great, man. Great day," said McNeice, finishing in 22 minutes, 57 seconds.

McNeice and Bond have alternated national wheelchair titles since 1998; not so much by design, but because they are so close in ability.

Saturday, their showed again. Five men with hand-powered cycles began the race. But after reaching Bayshore Boulevard, the other three could not hang with McNeice and Bond.

"We probably could have gone a little faster, but we waited to see if they could hang with us for a while," McNeice said. "They couldn't stay, so we just left."

At the finish line, McNeice, 48, won by about 1 cycle length.

MEGA MILES: Barbara Frye-Krier of Largo is one of those hearty and high-energy souls intent of doing all three events this weekend.

Having run the 15K and 5K on Saturday, she'll do the Hops Marathon today over parts of the same courses. Next weekend, she'll run the Disney Marathon. The accomplishments aren't all that overwhelming for the 48-year-old college professor at USF St. Petersburg.

In April, she plans to run the 3,200-mile TransEurope Footrace from Lisbon, Portugal, to Moscow, an ultra-endurance effort to help raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

PERSEVERANCE: Tampa attorney Tom Singletary will keep running the main event at Gasparilla until he gets it right. Actually, he has gotten it right 26 consecutive years, one of only a handful of runners to run them all. Singletary is a former board member of the GDCA. COLLEGE TEAMS NIXED: The plan of the GDCA and Harmeling to stage a team race among the state's Division I and II colleges was a casualty of NCAA restrictions. Because the event fell between competitive seasons, it violated NCAA rules. The GDCA had hoped to contribute $1,000 to each participating school.

A positive outcome, however, is many college runners came at their own expense, including the winners of the 5K, Jerry Reckart of North Florida and Misty Harper of FSU.

MILITARY POSTURE: Air Force teams from MacDill were loud and strong in numbers in both events. They competed in the Corporate Cup Championship.

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