Somewhere in the darkness of last year's Gasparilla Half Marathon, deep into the winding streets of Davis Islands, Jessica Crate and several of the standout runners around her went off course when the lead vehicle took them off course. And by the time they got back on the right track, Crate no longer was leading the women's race.
Crate wound up second and the mishap arguably cost her the title. But instead of permanently scratching Gasparilla from her race calendar, she decided to return and do what she aimed to do last year: win.
Sunday morning, the 25-year-old Crate did just that. Never straying from the correct 13.1-mile path - a route that included another loop in the dark on Davis Islands - she led wire-to-wire to establish an event-record time of 1 hours, 20 minutes, 6 seconds.
Understandably, Crate was upset last year when he race went awry. But she's not the type of person to hold grudges.
"That (being led off course) is even more reason to come back next time and make it a good race," said Crate, a native of Canada who competed collegiately for Arizona State and Florida State. "You just have to run smart and what happens, happens. You have to fight through it and stay positive."
As things turned out Sunday, last year's winner, Terri Rejimbal of Tampa, was second. Her time was nearly two minutes off Crate's but at age 42, Rejimbal is a masters runner (over 40). Taking third was Laura Woznicki (1:21:55), a former Lakeland Kathleen star and University of Tampa All-American.
Crate said she ran the first half of the race at sub-6 minute mile pace. But facing a headwind on Bayshore Boulevard, she found herself running above that goal. She was hoping to run close to her personal record of 1:19:53, but having to pace someone at a marathon last week likely played a factor Sunday.
Like many post-collegiate distance runners, Crate says she is trying to earn a berth in next year's U.S. Women's Olympic Marathon Trials. She has three marathons to her credit, owns a best of 2:51:53 and hopes to achieve the trials qualifying standard of 2:46:00 during April's Boston Marathon. If not there, she has an entry in next fall's New York City Marathon.
And if she doesn't reach the Olympic trials?
"Then I gave it my best," said Crate, who, besides coaching runners on the Space Coast, works for a non-profit company that gives shoes and clothing to the needy around the world. "That's all I want to be able to say. When I'm 83 and didn't go for it, I don't want to regret not trying."