CRYSTAL RIVER - Melissa Miller found that her competitive instincts worked in her favor.
The Wesley Chapel resident saw a University of Florida triathlete uniform on a competitor.
OK, so maybe the Gators do have national collegiate titles in football and basketball but Miller, an assistant track and cross country coach at the University of South Florida, decided the Gators were not getting another title Saturday night at the Crystal River Twilight Triathlon.
Miller, 25, won the women's race with a time of 52:38.
It was a good race for Tampa area residents.
Tampa's Jeffrey Hill was the overall winner with a time of 46:16.
Tampa's Robert De Costa was the men's masters winner with a time of 50:07.
Miller was running her first time on the course and that Gator helped motivate her.
'I saw a Florida Gator and I just had to beat her,' Miller said. 'I like to support the local community and get in as many races as possible. It the course is a good location. I saw some Gator apparel and I am a Bull so I had to go after it. Race management did a great job with directions and safety. It's the course flat and good. It's special because it is at night.'
The men's winner had to return and star at his favorite course. The race was in the cool of the evening but competing gave him a little pain.
'This is my fourth time,' said Hill, a Tampa firefighter. 'I love it here. This is my favorite course. I am in the series this year. It's a nice change of pace. I took the lead about a mile into a run. I was second at Crystal River No. 2 triathlon.
No one would have blamed Tampa's Robert De Costa if he never set foot on the Crystal River course again. He injured his back and leg when he was riding a bicycle and went flying through the window of a Citrus County sheriff's car in 2003. He returned to celebrate his 45th birthday by winning the men's masters race.
'Four years ago, the lead vehicle and I collided,' De Costa. said 'My insurance paid for it. My inside thigh muscle was sewn up and I had 77 staples. I went right through the window. It was Labor Day, 2003. I raced several months later despite the damage. I was winning at the time of the accident. He moved. I moved. I shattered the window.
'I was very nervous on the way. I feel much more comfortable. It is my birthday.'
Adam Hasebroock of Tampa was third with a time of 48:34. Andrew Hasebroock of Tampa was seventh with a time of 51:21. Lithia's Ken Vida was eighth with a time of 51:46.
The race director was thrilled at the turnout and the race outcome.
'The Twilight Triathlon is bigger and better,' Chris Moling said. 'We had 172 today. It's a record for the race. We have a great time putting it on. People come out to have a good time. We have pizza and hot dogs. People come out to enjoy the sunset and the cool weather.'