Fiesta 10K a wild ride for GWTC team

By Tim Unger
The 29th annual Fiesta 10k was held on Saturday May 3 and was an absolute media circus. Before the race started, Everett Whiteside, Running Journal's Grand Prix champion, announced his retirement ending a career of almost a decade of dominating performances. Everett ran as a part of the defending Fiesta 10k champion team, the Southern Running Racing Team, for his last race. The scoring format for the mixed team event is very difficult to tame however, and trying to win with only a couple fast guys never works. Gulf Winds Track Club has never won this team event and did not even place in the top three last year. That was the only team-racing event in which GWTC was not in the top 3.

The Fiesta race is the start of the summer racing season as far as I am concerned and this year was no exception. Partly sunny conditions with 100 percent humidity at 75 degrees with a slight southwesterly headwind for the entire point to point race was once again the story. The tough conditions make this a "step off" race for many. An optional 5k finish line along the course is provided for those who find the conditions unbearable for a 10k. Jim Frazier was the first to "step off", winning the 5k in 16:45. However, by the time Frazier crossed the 5k finish line Everett had already been by and was well on his way to winning his 6th Fiesta title in 32:25. But the 5k winner was able to cheer for the rest of the 10k field racing toward Seville Square in downtown Pensacola.

The Southern Running Racing Team looked in total control of the team event with male runners finishing first, second and eighth overall. The male runners for the Running Wild Racing Team were in 2nd place, riding on the trusty legs of FSU's 20 year old cross-country star Ryan Albertson and Pensacola's Lucas Harvey. The duo had worked their way into the third and fourth place finishing spots by running 35:11 and 35:17. GWTC recruit Mike Lilly finished next in 35:29 and pulled me along for my second Fiesta Master's title in 35:31. Mike and I had run extremely well together for the entire race and gracefully worked our way past a couple guys that neither of us had ever beaten before this event. Pensacola's Steve Garst, who was running for the upstart Emerald Coast Racing Team, and Southern Running's Mississippi State Masters Champion Jeff Hathorn, have always been tough competition, but Mike and I got by them this time. We also had to contend with Running Wild's determined Master's elite runner Jim Eastman, but getting by him gave GWTC a chance to win the coveted Fiesta team plaques. We were comfortably sitting in third place after the first 35:31 of the race, which was only 32 seconds from the runner's up team spot. All of the men finishing in the top twelve were entered on teams so by the thirty-seventh minute of the race we were all lined up to watch the women's race that would once again determine the Fiesta team event champions. An Ohio runner who was recruited for this event by the Emerald Coast Racing Team won the women's race.

Annette Bauer-English won the ladies 10k as the only sub 40 female with a well earned 39:30 victory. The second place female was Running Wild's Suzy Fernandez in 41:16. At that point two teams were poised to take the team victory as Emerald Coast and Running Wild each only needed one more female team member to pass the finish line. The Emerald Coast Racing Team's Morgan Branch finished fourth overall in 43:39 to complete their stunning and unlikely rise to Fiesta Team champions.

The GWTC heroes for the day were about to spring the second biggest surprise of the day into the team race. Rose City Master's champion Julie Clark was now steaming down the final stretch with GWTC Grand Prix champion Lisa Whitworth hot on her heels. Julie had been in a tremendous battle to try to capture back to back Fiesta Masters wins. She had shaved a minute and a half off of her 2002 Masters winning time and had given the team valuable seconds it needed in her valiant effort to repeat. Lisa's gutsy race that dominated her age group on a course she had never run before was par for the course for our tough GWTC Ladies champion. The ladies concluded the GWTC Racing Team scoring by finishing sixth (44:03) and seventh (44:12) overall to put us one minute and fifty-seconds behind the eventual winners. Our team time of 2:39:15 is the fastest team time GWTC has ever posted in the history of this race.

We had to hold our breath until the forty-seventh minute of the race for the final outcome of the team event. Several "step offs'" into the 5k race had The Running Wild and Southern Runners as well as other teams scrambling for women finishers. The teams that had the first four finishers in the men's race were now trying to save their podium finishes. The Southern Runners were next to finish as a team, but were over two minutes behind GWTC. The huge lead created by Washington High's Cross-Country Coach Everett Whiteside was overcome by the overwhelming power of women's team racing. The Running Wild Team's final finishing female pushed Everett's team out of the top 3 and off of the podium. The defending champions were sent home in a surprising fourth place. When the dust had finally settled, the thirteen seconds that Julie had lost her masters title by was the margin of difference that GWTC needed to defeat the FSU-led Running Wild Team for the runners-up plaques. I wouldn't trade the teamwork we showed on both the Men's and Women's sides of this race for anything.

Other GWTC team racers finishers.
Our Boston Marathon athletes were up next...
David Yon - 4th of 49 in age group - 39:52
Hobson Fulmer - 6th of 49 in age group - 41:39
You guys are absolutely INCREDIBLE!
Myron Herring - 9th of 49 in age group - 43:37
Janice Hochstein - 2nd of 12 in age group - 47:48
Mary Jean Yon - 2nd of 29 in age group - 48:33
Nick Yonclas - 4th of 28 in age group - 48:50
Barbara Yonclas - 2nd of 10 in age group - 52:56
Lisa & Lilly Unger - 5th of 20 in Lisa's age group in the 5k - 28:09. Great job girls. I think Lilly won the under 1 age group but missed her award while taking a nap!

Information is now available for the Memorial Day Gate to Gate GWTC team racing event to be run on Monday May 26.

THE RACE IS ON!!! PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED FOR ACCESS TO EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE. GWTC will field a mixed racing team with unlimited entries. The first wave of entries will be sent Saturday May 10th to take advantage of the early pre-registration price of $15. The following folks are considered our team as of now which means I have their entries: The Dexter family; Bob Keller; Tim & Lisa Unger. Many of you have said you would like to get to this event so now is your chance to join us for the final GWTC team race of 2003. Please send your entry to Tim Unger at 4122 Wiggington Rd. Tallahassee, FL 32303. I always expect the largest team entry for this event. If you have entered the race through Active.com please notify me so I can register you on our team roster immediately. I will also need a head count of folks who would like to attend a combined club Memorial Day party after the race on Eglin AFB. Jim Frazier and I went on base Sunday to scope out the possibility of replacing the now legendary Don Henderson the Gate To Gate race sponsors. The 96th Services Squadron has an outstanding recreational area known only as POST'L Point on the base. This water point access on Choctawhatchee Bay is located less than a mile from the finish line of the race. This recreation area has "limited camping", Pavilions, SHOWERS, bathrooms, a boat landing with a full service marina with souvenirs, refreshments and boat rentals of all kinds, AND A BEACH. Now the beach area is small and reminded me a lot of Wakulla county beaches like Mashes Sands but is still a beach to any Tallahassee boy none the less. The members from the Northwest Florida Track Club and GWTC will have a Memorial Day cookout and liquid carbo-loading event at POST'L Point for a couple of hours immediately after the race awards conclude. We will have a couple of kayaks on hand if you would like to try the water. If you would like to get the secret map to our 1st Annual Gate to Gate On Base Combined Club post race party send your entry to me today!! Questions? Call 592-2901.