41st Publix GASPARILLA DISTANCE CLASSIC HALF

Tampa, FL – Warm Florida hospitality was matched by warm sub-tropical conditions at today’s Publix GASPARILLA Distance Classic Half Marathon and 8K, day two of a weekend fitness festival now in its 41st year.

US Army sergeant Elkanah Kibet and Redding, California’s Sara Hall took top honors in the two main races. But both had to battle all the way home to take the $8000 first-place prize.  Kibet out kicked University of Oregon grad Parker Stinson 1:03:39 to 1:03:41, while Hall nipped defending women’s champion Stephanie Bruce of Northern Arizona Elite by one second in 1:12:01, stripping 33 seconds off Jen Rhines’ 2015 course record.

“I was going for a breakthrough in the heat,” said Sara in the VIP tent afterward. “We went out easy. I learned my lesson last year in Houston (11th place). Now it’s up to Mammoth Lakes for some altitude training before the World Half Marathon Championships in Valencia (Spain) in four weeks.”

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In the early morning blush of dawn, women’s leaders Stephanie Bruce, Diane Nukuri, and Dara Hall head out Bayshore Blvd with two men alongside

Both Hall and Bruce are ramping up for a major spring marathon in April, Sara to Boston and Steph in London one week later.

“Anytime I can go toe to toe with Sara it’s a good day,” said Steph who was coming off a third place finish at February’s USATF Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee. “I’ve never beat her, but this was the closest I’ve ever been. I’d say the times were incredible in very oppressive conditions. I feel like I’m knocking on the door.”

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Hammering home: Stephanie Bruce leads Sara Hall in the final miles

The men’s race proved just as closely contested with four men locked together as they looped off Davis Island onto Bayshore Boulevard at mile 5. Leading the way was 26 year-old Oregon grad Parker Stinson making his debut run in Tampa.

In his slipstream were Elkanah Kibet, WCAP army teammate Haron Lagat, and Team Run Flagstaff’s Kiya Dandena, a 1:03 half-marathon man from 2017.

Parker Stinson opens an early lead, only to see it dissipate shortly after

Miles along the flat, bayside course began tumbling in the 4:52 – 4:55 range in the still, dark conditions. But throughout the morning, Parker kept surging like an unkinked garden hose, opening a stream of pace before closing back soon thereafter.

“I wasn’t worried about him,” said Kibet, who finished fourth here last year in 64:51. “I was worried about my teammate Haron Lagat because he had the fastest time (61:01 at January’s Houston Half). But I never imagined I could win. I thought number three, but when we dropped the other guy (Dandena), I said maybe number two.”

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Kibet and Stinson match strides as Dandena holds in third.

The Kenyan-born soldier stationed in Colorado Springs came into Tampa off so-so races at the USATF Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee earlier this month (13th place), and an 18th place in January’s Houston Half Marathon (62:29).

“I changed my training after that,” he said, specifically adding more fartlek sessions, which helped him withstand the surges thrown in today by Colorado-based Parker Stinson.

After Stinson’s blows dispatched all others on the homeward run up Bayshore, it was Kibet who made a move at 12.5 miles with the finish line approaching fast. Stinson responded to move number one, but the next charge by Kibet proved decisive, opening the margin of victory.

Next up for the champion is next month’s Gate River 15K in Jacksonville before a date with the Boston Marathon in April.

In all, 32,000 runners took part in GASPARILLA 2018, many running Saturday’s 15K and 5K then quadrupling back for today’s half-marathon and 8K.

WOMEN

1. Sarah Hall – 72:01 course record

2. Stephanie Bruce – 72:02

3. Diane Nukuri – 73:05

4. Sydney Devore – 74:21

MEN

1. Elkanah Kibet – 63:39

2. Parker Stinson – 63:41

3. Kiya Dandena – 64:09

4. Tyler Pennel – 64:17

5. Haron Lagat – 65:13

END

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