Cross country course no challenge for Masterson

Published July 2, 2006

Track conditions are predictable; road race conditions slightly less so.

There's usually a big difference in cross country, unless the course includes manicured golf fairways.

One area cross country veteran who thrives on challenging conditions ascended to the top of his field Friday night at the second of three Picnic Island Adventure Runs in Tampa.

Jeff Masterson, 20, a sophomore on the cross country team at USF, ran with a lead group for the first half-mile before asserting himself. The former Class 3A state champion in the 3,200 meters for Mitchell High picked up the pace and went on to win the estimated 3.35-miler in 21 minutes, 9 seconds, 33 seconds faster than Jonathan Blocker of Tallahassee. Blocker runs for coach Bob Braman's FSU Seminoles.

As Masterson approached the last water hazard - with just more than 100 meters left - he stopped and removed his shoes.

"I didn't know how deep that water was," Masterson said. "There was an official yelling at me that I had to go around a buoy, so I thought I might have to swim."

Masterson didn't have to, but he cut up his feet slightly in the process. In all, he said he enjoyed the experience.

"Cross country is my favorite sport," said Masterson, who finished second for the Bulls in the fall's Big East meet in New York. "It's different; not the same conditions like on the track or road. I hope to run the series finale on July 28."

PICNIC ISLAND WOMEN'S RACE: Christa Benton of St. Petersburg, who ran track and cross country for USF for four years, had third place overall in her sights with about 100 meters to go. But she bogged down in the shallow water, dropping to sixth as she easily won the women's title in 22:12.

"I wasn't sure what to expect on the course," Benton said. "It featured beach running, an obstacle course including crawling under nets, jumping over a barrier, hopping over tires, running through narrow, sloshy mangrove trails and hills and at the very end a run in the bay itself."

According to race official Ric Dorrie, Benton's overall finish was the highest for a woman in the four-year history of the Adventure Series.

Holly Petrak of Tampa was second among women in 24-25 followed by Tarpon Springs High's Kailand Cosgrove, Marise Davidson of Largo and masters division winner Denise Fairbanks of Tampa.