USF runner wins Iron Girl 10K

Published October 1, 2006

CLEARWATER - University of South Florida senior Christa Benton won Saturday's RYKA Iron Girl Women's 10K at Coachman Park in 36 minutes.

The field of 800 was a festive mix of competitive runners, triathletes, middle-of-the-pack enthusiasts and mother-daughter category entrants.

Ages ranged from a 5-year-old girl to 78-year-old USA Triathlon All-American champion Jackie Yost of Treasure Island, who finished in 1 hour, 26 minutes.

"Coach Lance Lipham from Keswick Christian School told me to go out and run this race hard," said Benton, 22, who remains one of Keswick's most decorated cross country runners and a former NCAA All-American.

"Coach told me to go out hard and just see how it turned out. Now, I'm running 50-70 miles per week to get ready for my first marathon, which will be Disney. I used the Iron Girl race to see where my training is at. "

At race start, the temperature was in the low 70s, and the early miles saw St. Petersburg's Melanie Peters accelerating away from the leaders on the four-lane Clearwater Memorial Causeway. Benton passed Peters, who hung on to finish in second place at 37 minutes, 37 seconds.

"I was a miler, and I decided to make a move early," said Peters, 24, who just graduated from Miami. "When I saw that Christa was running the 10K race instead of the 5K, I knew I had a race on my hands. Christa is an amazing distance specialist."

St. Petersburg's Christy Phillips made her Forerunners Track Club coach Joe Burgasser proud, winning the 5K event in 19:29, followed by triathlete Tracy Parker, 36, of Odessa, in 20:03.

"No matter how many years you race, you always get the jitters at the start," said Phillips, 44. "I knew it would be a fast race, and if you look around, the top 5K women were all masters. ... These are the top women masters in the area."