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Pinellas runners make their mark

By DAVE THEALL, Times Correspondent
Published September 23, 2007


Pinellas runners returned from last week's Ranch Run 5K in Temple Terrace with many age-group trophies.

Although Michael Fitzpatrick, 37, of Belfast, Northern Island, ran off with the grand prize as the overall winner (17:06), Eric Sager and Albert Wieringa, both of St. Petersburg, weren't that far behind in third and fourth places, respectively.

Sager, clocking 18:49, was credited with first in the 35-39 age group because Fitzpatrick was the overall winner. Wieringa, at 61, was 14 seconds back, winning the 60-64 age division. But Wieringa, a native of the Netherlands, is no stranger to area and national winners' circles, having won his age division at October's Chicago marathon among a field of 300-plus contemporary competitors. And he won the Disney Marathon.

Dan McDonough of St. Petersburg claimed the 30-34 title, finishing sixth in the field of 341 runners in 19:21. Ben Fudge of St. Pete Beach took first, 70-plus, in 28:49.

Four Pinellas women won age-group awards behind overall winner Lois Waite, 39, of Tampa, who posted 19:07, just three seconds behind Wieringa.

Debra Donald, 49, of St. Petersburg finished fourth, winning her age group in 21:42. Pam McCann of Treasure Island won (24:18) her 40-44 group, finishing eighth and Ginger Herring of St. Petersburg led among those 60-64 in 27:44.

The Ranch Run is an annual fixture put on by the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office to benefit the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches program.

STATE DOMINATION: Several Pinellas marathoners have been recognized as the best in five state marathons this year in their age divisions, as compiled by Florida RacePlace, the official publication of the USA Track & Field, Florida.

Again, Wieringa heads the field, having run away with the 60-64 title at January's Disney Marathon in a swift 2:58:00 flat. St. Petersburg's Jon Wilson was a distant second in that group in 3:44:00.

Kevin Lyons of Palm Harbor has posted the fastest Pinellas marathon time in the state, 2:43:30, good for third, 20-24. Lyons, a May graduate of Harvard, went on to win the 10K and 5K events at November's Times Turkey Trot. Admiral Farragut Academy graduate John Biffar (2:46:43) is listed second in that age group.

The overall state leader, Ronnie Holassie with his 2:22:08 at Miami, is a former groom at Tampa Bay Downs.

Forerunners coach Joe Burgasser, a former 2:27 marathoner, has the widest age-group margin - 3:25:23 to 4:01:29 - dominating the 65-69 category.

In the women's division, Pinellas marathoners have captured three of the top four places headed by Christa Benton (2:57:25 at Disney) and Melanie Peters, 2:58:01 at the January Miami Marathon.

Benton, who also won titles at the prestigious Times Turkey Trot 10K and Gasparilla 15K in the past 12 months, has the fastest women's time in the state this year by a state resident as she works toward an Olympic Trials marathon qualifying time of 2:48. Those trials will be held in Boston on April 20, the day before the Patriots Day classic, but not on the route from the quaint town of Hopkinton.

Jacki Wachtel of Tarpon Springs leads the 25-29 group with a 3:02:51 in Miami. Lisa Vaill, 44, of Gainesville, has the second-fastest state time, 2:58:00 at Tampa's Bank of America. Palm Harbor's Noora Alidina ranks third, 50-54, for her 3:56:34 at the BOA, only 1:35 behind the group leader.

Besides Disney, Miami and Bank of America, the Pensacola Marathon in February and March's Sarasota Marathon were factored into the compilations.

PHILADELPHIA DISTANCE CLASSIC: Millie Hamilton of Redington Beach finished seventh of 62 runners in her 60-64 age division at Sunday's lucrative-prize money half-marathon. Her time was 1:56:51, a PR for 13.1 miles. Cohorts Tara Croft of Seminole posted 2:07:29 and Safety Harbor's Diane Berberain ran the scenic course in 2:09:30 among a field of 8,000.

[Last modified September 22, 2007, 23:41:36]

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