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Clearwater runners prevail
By DAVE THEALL
Published December 13, 2004
LARGO - Prerace favorite Keith Sawayda and last-minute entry Vicki Jetton won the Gulf Beaches Halfathon Sunday.
Sawayda took the early lead from Jeremy Rogers of London and built on it, winning by more than four minutes. The 41-year-old from Clearwater ran a 5-minute, 45-second first mile, then maintained that pace, winning in 1:15:41.
"I felt comfortable with that pace early on so decided to stay with it," said Sawayda, who at 5 feet 11 and 175 pounds runs effortlessly. "I like this distance and I liked the course, even with the light breeze."
Rogers was clocked at 1:20:04, followed by Ian Payne (1:22:34) of Tierra Verde, Jeff Umbreit (1:24:13) of Milford, Conn., and David Noyes (1:24:41) of St. Petersburg.
Jetton, also of Clearwater, battled to catch last year's 1-2 women finishers, Mary Ann Protz of St. Petersburg and Lisa Valentine of Tierra Verde. With a goal of a seven-minute mile, Jetton, running the 13.1-mile distance for the first time, exceeded that by going out in 6:50. Protz and Valentine ran it in about 6:20.
"I wasn't going to make the same mistake I did at the Turkey Trot," said Jetton, who led for the first 4 miles before losing to Mary Level-Menton of Ocala in the Thanksgiving Day 10K. "I wanted to stay relaxed at a comfortable pace; I didn't want the lead and the pressure that goes with it, I wanted to be patient."
Jetton surged past Valentine between Miles 4 and 5 and Protz near Mile 11. The Bardmoor Elementary School teacher won in a women's course-record of 1:25:07. Protz finished in 1:25:45, which was better than last year's time under adverse weather conditions.
Valentine said she was encouraged by her 1:26:30, nearly four minutes faster than last year.
"This race is a stepping-stone for me," said Valentine, a three-time winner of the Gulf Beaches Marathon. "This indicates I'm ready for Naples (half marathon) next month and February's Bank of America Marathon."
Clearwater's Lisa Kothe finished fourth in 1:30:29, followed by Melissa Daugherty of Valdosta, Ga., in 1:31:25.
Race director Chris Lauber was pleased with the final registration figure of 804, though only 673 started the race from Madeira Beach to Taylor Park despite ideal running conditions, temperature in the high 40s and low humidity, at 7 a.m.
NASCAR's Kyle Petty was registered but did not pick up his bib, No.45.
JINGLE BELL RUN: The 22nd annual race from the St. Petersburg municipal pier is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Register online at www.active.com or call 727 821-4819.
AFGHANISTAN MARATHON: A U.S. soldier burst into tears after winning the country's first marathon, his thoughts on four comrades killed in recent fighting. Lt. Mike Baskin of Santiago, Calif., ran in thin mountain air for more than three hours (3:12:15) before crossing the finish.
"I just thought about those four guys when I crossed, that they won't be going home with us, and it kind of hit me," he said.
About 200 soldiers and civilians working for the U.S. military competed in the 26.2-mile race at Firebase Ripley, a remote military camp near Tirin Kot in central Uruzgan province. The Afghan National Olympic Committee said the marathon was the war-ravaged country's first.
-- Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.