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Nesslar heeds advice, runs best 5K and wins


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 11, 2000

Donna Nesslar of Largo ran last Friday's Spartan Sprint 5K at the University of Tampa in her fastest time of the year -- 18 minutes, 50 seconds -- for women's honors and 19th place overall in a field of 306.

The win was a pleasant surprise for Nesslar, 37, a physical therapist at Health South Rehab in Largo. Last month she finished as the sixth woman at the PSTA Fun 'n Run 5K in Clearwater in 19:28, then clocked 19:35 at the Rays Run 5K from Tropicana Field for eighth place among women.

"I listened to coach Mel Mella of the West Florida Y Runners Club who told me to try to run a more even pace," said Nesslar, who trains with Mella on the Clearwater High School track once a week. "I did that, covering the first mile in 5:47, and was able to maintain it for the most part. Also, the heat wasn't as bad as at the Rays Run, which didn't start till 8:30.

"Kim Bruce was ahead of me the whole way and would have won easily, but she wasn't registered so that enabled me to win. She peeled off just before the finish line. When she enters a race I'm in, or Judy Maguire, Laure Blume, Christy Phillips, Lisa Valentine or Amy (McClenathan), forget it, I'm not going to win."

Not that Nesslar didn't have serious competition at the Spartan race.

Sandy Shelton of St. Petersburg, a 3-hour marathoner at Boston who beat Nesslar with an 18:55 5K at Harvey's Festival of States on April 4, was in the field. Shelton finished as the sixth woman at the Harvey's and Nesslar eighth in 19:01. This time Shelton finished second in 19:05, followed by Kit Van Allan of Palm Harbor in 20:01.

"That 19:01 frustrated me somewhat because I would liked to have broken 19 minutes," Nesslar said. "The last time I ran an 18:50 was at the Run for Santa in downtown Clearwater, which only got me second place behind Judy (Maguire)."

Nesslar said she averages 25 miles a week training while juggling her career and raising twin 6-year-old daughters, Kristin and Jennifer, with husband/runner Gary. She specializes at the 5K distance but steps up to the 10K at the Times Turkey Trot and the 15K at Gasparilla.

"I plan to do the WFYRC Pier 60 series on Clearwater Beach next," Nesslar said. "They are good for training, although I tend to go all-out. There's a strong incentive to do well there, such as good prizes. I won a weekend stay at a beach-front hotel in the series several years ago."

MORE SPARTAN RESULTS: Joel Rich, 30, of Gainesville was the overall winner in 16:15, a 5:14-per-mile pace. He was followed by Jim Bumbul (16:31) of St. Petersburg, Bernie Martinez (17:01) of Tampa, and 41-year-old Terry Fluke (17:02) of St. Petersburg.

Brent Speed (17:13) of Tampa came on strong for fifth place, followed by Jim Burgasser (a personal-best 17:17 ) of St. Petersburg.

Coach Joe Burgasser of the Forerunners was a 60-64 age-group winner in 20:45, with Terri Sullivan of Tarpon taking the women's 60-64 title in 30:07.

Other Pinellas age-group winners included Jimmy Duncan (25-29) in 18 flat, Sandy Shelton (30-34) in 19:05, and Terry Fluke (40-44) in 17:02.

Complete results of the Spartan Sprint are posted on the Internet at

COACHING CREDENTIALS: The WFYRC's Mella attended the Road Runners Club of America's annual convention in Peachtree City, Ga., last month with club representatives Mary Lou Johnson and Eve Dietrich.

Mella took part in the RRCA Coaches Training Program, an intensive two days immersed in sports physiology, psychology, pedagogy and philosophy. Following a test, Mella is now a certified RRCA coach.

He and Johnson have been appointed to the RRCA Children's Running Committee.

COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS: At last month's annual meeting of the WFYRC, $6,000 in scholarships were awarded to Pinellas athletes who had been nominated by their high school coaches. The winners were:

Alyssa Haigh, Keswick Christian, $1,000. A shot putter and long jumper, Haigh earned Times all-county first-team honors in the discus. She'll attend Central Florida.

Mike Walguarney, Tarpon Springs, $1,000. A miler and cross country runner, he was the Spongers' No. 1 in cross country last fall. He'll attend South Florida.

Ben Taylor, St. Petersburg Catholic, $2,000. A 4:31 1,600-meter runner, the Times all-Pinellas second-team runner will compete for UCF next fall.

Nate Davis, Largo High, $2,000. The Times all-Pinellas first-team runner in the 1,600 meters (4:23) will run for coach Bob Braman at Florida State next fall.

The winners were selected from 11 candidates based on scholastic and athletic achievements, community involvement and financial need.

FINISH LINES: Rory McCarron of the Forerunners, who finished sixth at the Rays Run, has returned to Notre Dame to complete work on his master's degree in education.

Tony Dees of Tampa, a bronze medalist at the 1992 Olympics, is among the favorites in the 110-meter hurdles at next month's Olympic trials in Sacramento, Calif.

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