Clewiston's A.J. Richmond captured the men's division and Briana Whaley of Clearwater took the women's crown of the Publix Super Markets Gasparilla Distance Classic 15-kilometer run this morning in downtown.
Before the rain moved into the area, the 24-year-old Richmond, a former standout distance runner for Webber International University at Babson Park, took the lead just after two miles and ran unopposed for the remainder of the 9.3-mile race.
Temperatures were a tad chilly for the 7:10 a.m. start - 47 degrees - but for a race of this distance, the conditions were near-ideal for the nearly 5,000 runners.
Despite getting a bad stitch near his diaphragm around the six-mile mark, Richmond managed to hold just more than 5-minute mile pace to cross the finish line in a personal best of 46 minutes, 49 seconds. Two years ago, Richmond took second place in this same race.
Taking second this year was Jim Wahl of Cary, N.C., who ran 48:27. St. Petersburg's Hank Campbell was third in 49:51, Lee Stephens of Plant City was fourth in 49:57 and Cape Coral's John Biffar rounded out the top five in 50:09.
As the top local finisher, Campbell earned $2,000, Stephens won $1,500 and Ray Friedman of Odessa, sixth overall, received $750.
In the women's division, former Olympic marathon trials qualifier Whaley of St. Petersburg won in 54:05, also earning $2,000. Former Academy of the Holy Names and University of Florida star Sara Petrick ($1,500) was second in 54:40 and former Keswick Christian standout Christa Benton ($750) took third in 54:47.
In the 5-kilometer race, where runners had to deal with a steady rain, the men's winner was Brooksville's Hernando High School product Ben Martucci (15:02), who now runs for Florida Southern College. Chamberlain High School senior Mark Parrish (15:05), the Class 4A state runner-up in cross country last fall, earned second with a personal best.
The women's winner was Bree McArdle, a native of Australia who competes for Florida State, with a time of 17:44. Tampa's Jess Butler was second in 17:46.
A total of 10,061 runners and walkers signed up for the 5k; the official number for the 15k was 5,288. An additional 1,998 took part in the 5k walk. The combined total for the three races - 17,347 - was an event record.
On Sunday, more than 4,000 runners are registered for the final marathon Gasparilla is staging for the race weekend. There are 2,212 runners registered for the half marathon. Both races start at 6 a.m.