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Quick start, fast finish

Muchapiwa Mazano sets a blistering pace, then holds off his challengers at the wire to win the men's 15K.

By PETE YOUNG

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 25, 2001


TAMPA -- Living up to his reputation, Muchapiwa Mazano went out hard. Really hard.

Rattling off a few sub-five minute miles, Mazano, the No. 1 seed in the 24th annual Gasparilla Distance Classic's 15K feature race, opened a yawning gap between himself and the field.

Just past the halfway mark, however, one of the runners in Mazano's wake, Matt Whaley, noticed something interesting:

Mazano wasn't getting farther away. And he kept looking over his shoulder.

If the race were 15.1K, Whaley likely would have been your 2001 Gasparilla champion. But the tiring Mazano held on in a close three-way finish. His time of 48 minutes, 50 seconds beat Whaley by eight seconds, and Whaley was 10 seconds ahead of Mike Greiwe.

"(Mazano) kept looking back and looking back, and I kept getting closer, and I was thinking, "God, I'm going to catch him,' " said Whaley, 23, a senior at South Florida and a member of the Bulls track team. "When we got to the (Davis Islands) bridge (about 200 yards from the finish), I was driving my arms, going after it, and then I look up and here's the finish line, and he's right here.

"I ran out of room."

Inspired by Mazano's repeated glances over his shoulder -- a sure sign he was fatiguing -- Whaley kicked it up a notch, catching Greiwe just after the 5-mile mark and running with him for a while before setting off for Mazano.

"If I had gone a little sooner, I would have got him," Whaley said. "He went out really hard, and I was thinking, "I'm going to catch him, I'm going to catch him.' But he just got me."

Mazano, who was sitting stretched out just past the finish line for several minutes after the race, said he felt comfortable with his lead the entire way.

"I wasn't worried," said Mazano, 28, a native of Zimbabwe and a USF graduate who was the Gasparilla runner-up last year to Russ Gerbers (who did not race Saturday). "I had a big gap ... the early pace was good. I liked it."

Greiwe and Whaley did make things interesting. "I got in there and did the best I could," said Greiwe, 22, a Plant High graduate and former runner at Notre Dame who had never competed in a race longer than 10K. "Matt and I were working together. We didn't catch him at the end, but we ran a good race."

Greiwe has done some training with Mazano, but he was caught off guard. "I didn't expect him to go out as hard as he did, but I should have been ready for that. He obviously ran a good race and took control out there."

Women's winner Laura Drake, 32, took control from the outset and easily captured her third consecutive Gasparilla title in 54:47. The St. Petersburg native, who lives in Atlanta, has been busy: She was married Feb. 17 (in Atlanta to Mike Gullett), then she spent five days in Utah on a ski trip for her honeymoon, and after winning the 15K, she won the 5K in 17:28, becoming the first person to pull off double victories in the same year.

Not a bad week.

"We had a blast (in Utah) -- it was so much fun. I kind of stayed away from the trees," Drake said. "Today was fun, too."

A distance triathlon specialist, Drake led from the first mile of the 15K and cruised in almost two minutes ahead of runner-up Judy Maguire, 42, of Clearwater (56:43). Bea Marie Altieri of Clermont was third (57:13), followed by Pinellas Park's Laure Blume (57:28).

Drake's time was 1:48 off of her Gasparilla best, set last year.

"I just kept my heart rate at 180 (beats a minute) and did the best I could," Drake said while cooling down between races. "It's not an easy race. I was happy to win."

Race for the ages

On Saturday, the Times profiled eight Gasparilla entrants, one from each of eight decades. Here's how they fared:

MILLARD SHUMATE: The 80-year-old completed the 15K in 2 hours, 31 minutes, 11 seconds, the 5,220th overall finisher.

ROSALYN ANDERSON: She ran the 5K in 47:49 (4,652th overall, but third in her division; she turned 73 on Saturday).

BOB RANTA: Ranta, 68, was close to his goal of the low 1:20s with a 1:29:19, good for 2,890th overall.

IRIS SMITH: Smith, 53, ran 1:53:26 in her first 15K at this event, 4,839th overall.

GREGORY MARSHALL: The 48-year-old just missed his goal of under 27 minutes for the 5K, finishing in 27:46, 768th overall.

CAROLYN DREIER: Dreier, 35, hoped to beat her 15K best of 1:15 but finished in 1:18:53, or 1,488th overall.

MATT WHALEY: The 23-year-old went one better than his No. 3 seed, finishing second in the 15K in 48:58.

LEXI MacKINNON: The 12-year-old just wanted to finish the 5K, which she did in 54:06, good for 4,934th overall.

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