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Training the focus, win just a bonus

By DAVE THEALL, Times correspondent
Published August 9, 2007


After finishing second in races Nos. 1 and 2 of the Sunsets at Pier 60 Series at Clearwater Beach, St. Petersburg's Russell Snyder decided at Mile 1 of the third 5K race he would take the lead and wait to see what happened.

By sustaining that surge to the turnaround point, Snyder opened a 50-yard lead, then relaxed as he coasted to an easy victory in 17 minutes, 54 seconds.

Toby Probst, a junior on the cross country team at Clearwater Central Catholic, found a burst of speed at the end to claim second (18:15), with Mark Benjamin (18:23) of Kenneth City taking third among men.

Snyder, a May graduate of Northeast High where he ran cross country and track for the first time last season, improved by three seconds over his runnerup finish in the second race where he finished behind another former Viking, '06 graduate Jonathan Mott.

"I used these three races to get ready for cross country season," said Snyder, who was the Vikings' No. 1 harrier last season. "I'm leaving (today) for Embry-Riddle University (Daytona Beach) for preseason cross country. There, I hope we train and run a lot of cross country races on trails in the woods. ...I plan to major in engineering."

Academics was Mott's strong suit at Northeast. He graduated third in his class and was named Times' high school Student-Athlete of the Year, due in large part to his bronze-medal finish at the state 2A championships in the 100 breast and seventh in the 200 individual medley. A four-year swimmer at Northeast, Snyder's summer job was life guarding at St. Petersburg's Fossil Park Pool.

SNYDER NOTE: Snyder followed in the footsteps of his brother, Bradley, who also swam for Northeast for four years. Bradley, 23, is a 2006 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy where he lettered in swimming and earned a degree in engineering.

Sister Elyse, a sophomore at Northeast, finished well back of women's winner Christa Benton (18:18), but won the women's 15-19 age division in 22:43, a margin of three minutes. She'll run for the Vikings girls team this fall as well as swim.

MORE WOMEN'S RESULTS: Benton finished third overall with her best time in the summer series, 18:18. Her previous wins were in 18:25 and 18:26.

The former USF all-American in cross country will move from the Pinellas County School System to Northside Christian this fall where she'll teach music and do some coaching.

St. Petersburg's Melanie Peters finished second (20:27), followed by Largo's Donna Nesslar (21:43), who turned 45 on Sunday. Nesslar finished second in beach races Nos. 1 and 2.

Twin daughters Jennifer and Kristin finished second and third among girls 13-14 behind winner Symone Shinton.

MORE AGE GROUPS: Millie Hamilton was first, 60-64, in 29:43 and first over 55. ...Clearwater's Ron Murawsky not only won his 50-54 age division in 19:41, but that time was faster than the winning time for the 35-39, 40-44 and 45-49 age groups. ...Jack Gough, 76, once ranked among the top 10 nationally in the 50-54 and 55-59 age groups at the 10K and 15K distances, ran an even pace, clocking 28:51 to finish first, 65 and over.

- Friday is the fourth race in the series and Aug. 28 is the fifth and final one at Pier 60.

ULTRA MARATHON: Noora Alidina, 50, of Palm Harbor, completed the grueling Badwater 135-mile challenge in 35 hours, 12 minutes, 13 seconds last month. She improved by seven minutes over her first time in 2005 and by two hours, four minutes, (37:16:15) over her 2006 time when she was third woman.

This year she finished second among 16 women and 18th overall among 85 starters. Seventy-eight finished what has been described as the world's most challenging ultra marathon. It starts in Death Valley where the temperature is in the 130s and ends halfway up Mount Whitney in California. Participation is by invitation only.

[Last modified August 8, 2007, 20:13:44]

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