Red Mule 5K winner Tony Teats has the Olympics in his sights. Danielle Coyle, 17, wins the women's race.
BROOKSVILLE - Tony Teats was first to finish the Red Mule Runners Labor Day 5K Saturday at Ernie Wever Youth Park.
But the race was only a starting point in his quest to qualify for the U.S. Olympic marathon team.
Teats, 26, of Oldsmar completed the hilly, 3.1-mile course in 15 minutes, 57 seconds, nine seconds ahead of Florida Southern sophomore Tyrone Bell.
Danielle Coyle, 17, of New Port Richey was the top female in 23:27.
A total of 189 runners completed the race, the first in the event's 22-year history at a site other than McKethan Lake Park. The regular course was closed because of flooding.
"This is a popular race around the Tampa Bay area," Teats said. "It's always nice to win those."
Teats used the race to prepare for the Dec.13 Jacksonville Marathon, where he needs to run under 2 hours, 22 minutes to qualify for the 2004 Olympic Trials.
A Fort Wayne, Ind., native and former Morehead State University (Ky.) runner, Teats won the Hops Marathon in Tampa in 2000 and completed the Chicago Marathon in 2001. He also won the Gasparilla 15K in 2002.
"(The Red Mule 5K) is something to get my speed up and get a hill workout in, which is always nice and hard to do around Tampa," Teats said.
Teats, an accountant at Sykes Enterprises in Tampa, typically runs 70-75 miles a week and enters a 5K every other weekend. He will increase his workouts to 90 miles shortly.
His next race will be the Turkey Trot 10K Nov.27 in Clearwater.
Bell, 19, of Orange Park ran with Florida Southern teammate John Emerson much of the way and overcame a brief stumble to finish in 16:06, 31 seconds ahead of Emerson.
"I kind of wish I would have taken it a little harder," Bell said.
After finishing fourth in the Sunshine State Conference as a freshman, Bell hopes to qualify for the NCAA championships in his second college season.
He said the Ernie Wever course resembles the one he will run on at the Division II Southeast Region in Atlanta.
"With all the hills, I think it was really good (preparation)," Bell said.
Coyle, a River Ridge senior, would like to join Bell at FSC next year.
But first, she hopes to break 20 minutes in a 5K and make it back to the Class 3A state meet after missing much of last season to bronchitis and sinus and ear infections.
"I'm working hard my senior year," said Coyle, who qualified for state as a sophomore. "Last chance to get there."
Coyle called Saturday's race a "confidence booster."
"I'm very happy," she said. "It was a tough, challenging course and my time was the best of my summer, so I"m excited. It's better than all my races last cross country season."