By PETE YOUNG and JOHN SCHWARB
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 29, 2001
ST. PETERSBURG -- Dade City's Alison Hayden made her professional debut at St. Anthony's in 1998, and Saturday's race was her first World Cup event.
Hayden, 29, specializes in the Ironman distance (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run). St. Anthony's is just a fraction of that, but for Hayden it proved trying nonetheless.
"It's a totally different training from what I'm used to," Hayden said. "I'm the endurance queen."
She finished 22nd in 2 hours, 15 minutes, 19 seconds, partially because of a nagging leg injury and penalty in the transition area after the swim.
An inspection revealed an illegal bike handle and required her to remain in the transition area for 30 seconds. She winced and eagerly bounced in place until allowed to continue.
"All the rules are different (for World Cup)," Hayden said. "It was a very defined measurement, I was maybe 2 millimeters off. They okayed me once, then I guess they double-checked."
THE LEGEND SPEAKS: Michellie Jones was among those who got blitzed by Carol Montgomery's amazing run, and she finished third. The five-time women's champion (1994-98) from Australia has long been a fan of St. Anthony's.
"This race is great," Jones said. "The spectators here are absolutely fantastic. It's a great way to showcase our sport. The St. Anthony's Triathlon has such a huge history in the U.S., I'm glad it finally got World Cup status."
LOVE IS IN THE AIR: Love bugs were in abundance, especially at the awards ceremony, where they swarmed. The competitors said they were only a minor nuisance. "I got a couple in my mouth," said Jessi Stensland, who placed 14th in the women's race.
NOT SO MEEK: The Meek & Mighty races for youths and novices had a pair of repeat winners.Julie Carusone, 14, of High Springs won the girls 11-14 age group in 27:41, 2:10 faster than her time last year. Andrew Phelps, 14, of Apopka repeated as the boys 11-14 winner in 25:01, 4:36 faster than a year ago. Kayne Dakoski, 18, of Palm Harbor, who won the 15-older age group two years ago and was runner-up last year, won in 25:12.
WHO'S THAT?: The awards ceremony was held after the men's race and about three hours after the women's race. During that time, the women's winner, Montgomery, disappeared. Taking her place on the podium was Michelle Blessing, the resident athlete coach for USA Triathlon.