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Friends finish at the same time

SCOTT PURKS
Published April 26, 2004

ST. PETERSBURG - Australia's Richie Cunningham and Miles Stewart are close friends who flew together to compete in St. Anthony's Triathlon.

On Sunday they took the friendship thing to a whole new level.

Cunningham, 30, and Stewart, 32, were neck and neck through the swim, bike and run before crossing the finish line at the exact same time, 1 hour, 51 minutes, 38 seconds.

And exact is the word because the timing chips on their shoes read exactly the same, ultimately leading officials to name them co-runnersup.

"It's okay with me," Stewart said. "It's certainly a lot better than finishing tied for 20th."

Second place paid $4,000 and third $3,000. In a compromise, the second- and third-place prize money was combined and split equally.

"That's also fine," said Cunningham, who held Stewart's baby for much of the awards ceremony. "We came a long way so it feels good."

Cunningham, who said he has had three such photo finishes, said it was tough to determine where the finish line was because the pad that records the chip times is more than a foot wide.

Again, though, he said he really wasn't complaining.

LEAVING NO DOUBT: The pro wave, which hit the water first at 7:30 a.m., was also the first to finish, allowing thousands of spectators to see the race champion, Australia's Craig Walton, cross the finish line in 1:50.47.

Last year there was confusion with the experiment of an elite amateur wave that led off the entirely amateur field. Matt Nuffort crossed first, but Maryland's Bill Schultz, who started in the 25-29 age group about 30 minutes after the elite wave, had a faster time.

Schultz didn't find out he had won until almost 24 hours later. Sunday's pro division worked like a charm as no amateur came within five minutes of Walton.

Schultz, by the way, competed in Sunday's pro wave, placing 14th in 1:56.38. Nuffort, competing as an amateur, was 26th overall in 2:01.57.

NOT OVER THE HILL: Four men competed in the 80-99 age group, with New York's Bill Schweizer, 81, taking top honors with a time of 3:30.21. Atlanta's John Taylor, 82, was second in 4:22.50, followed by Charles Futrell, 83, in 4:32.57 and Belleair's Charles Lasley, 82, in 5:04.36.

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