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Drake pulls off unique daily double

Defending 15K champion Laura Drake wins both women's races.

By DAVE THEALL

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 25, 2001


TAMPA -- Laura Drake completed an unprecedented sweep Saturday by winning the Gasparilla Distance Classic's 5K event about an hour and 20 minutes after taking her third consecutive 15K title. She finished eighth overall among a field of about 6,000. "I'm glad I did both," said Drake, who cut short her honeymoon in Utah to run in the races. "I figured no one else had ever done it, won both, and I thought maybe people would focus on this (accomplishment) rather than how my times compare with the elite professional runners who have won in past years."

With her time of 17 minutes, 28 seconds, Drake beat last year's winning time of 17:49 posted by Laura Karpalisto of South Florida. Former USF cross-country runner Amelia Griffith was second in 18:19, followed by Michelle Kinkela (18:31) of Sterling Heights, Mich., and Ashley McComas (18:57) of Tampa.

A balanced mix of patience, stamina and speed enabled Rolf Steier of Temple Terrace to run away with the men's 5K title. Steier, 16, a junior at Tampa's Berkeley Prep with two state cross-country titles to his credit, held back during the first mile with Kevin Lyons, 15, of Palm Harbor at his elbow. The two covered the mile in 4:58, just about the time Steier said he was aiming for just before the race.

When Steier turned onto Bayshore Boulevard, he increased the pace slightly, opening some space between himself and Lyons and the rest of the field.

Even with a comfortable lead at 2 miles in 9:57, Steier accelerated to the finish line and won in 15:37.

"Since this was my first race of the year, I didn't want to run too hard," said Steier, whose best time for the distance was 15:38. "I didn't have a strategy; I just ran as I felt."

Lyons, a sophomore at Clearwater Central Catholic, ran alone for second in 16:10, followed by Chris Hess (16:33) of Daytona Beach and Colin Strickland (16:37) of Brandon, who runs for Jesuit High.

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