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Hrabos, Stipanovich Win Pinellas Trail Challenge

By JOHN GREGG, TB Reporter

The men’s winner sets new course record and the women’s champ comes close.

ST. PETERSBURG — Patrick Hrabos of Sarasota won the 2015 Pinellas Trail Challenge on Saturday (Sept. 5), with a course-record time of 7:00:27 over the 46-mile route. The 29-year-old, who was third in the Keys Ultras 50 Miler in May, bested Lucas Smelser’s 2014 time by more than 16 minutes. Fifty-five-year-old David Whiteside of Indian Rocks Beach finished second, 30 minutes behind Hrabos, while Richard Garcia of Clermont placed third.

On the women’s side, Sasha Stipanovich of Palm Harbor finished seventh overall in 8:10:59, coming within 11 minutes of Kacie Herrick’c course record set in 2014. The 30-year-old posted the second win of her career, having won the Croom Zoom 50K in 2013. Stephanie Miller of Clearwater, who was celebrating her 54th birthday, finished second and in doing so captured the 2015 FUR-ocious Summer Slam Championship. Carla Simonet of Delray Beach finished 14th overall and was the third female.

The men’s race was hotly contested early on and Daniel Bellingham (fourth) of Tampa was the race leader at the 22-mile check point. Shortly thereafter, Hrabos pulled ahead and by the marathon mark held a margin of nearly 15 minutes on Whiteside and the rest of the field. He would continue to increase his lead over the next 10 miles and at one point lead by over 45 minutes.

“Pat is a phenomenally talented and incredibly disciplined runner. He is going to be an absolute force in our sport, for a very long time,” said Dave Krupski, of Zwitty Ultra Endurance, Hrabos’s coach who himself finished second in 2014. “I had a very strong inkling that he would dominate at PTC. Nothing against all the other awesome competitors out there, but I’ve been in this sport for a while now, and I recognize elite talent when I see it. Pat is the total package.”

With Hrabos dominating up front, the race for second turned out to be a back-and-forth affair during the race’s last dozen miles. Whiteside, who was suffering from cramps at the Tarpon Tavern aid station at mile 36, was passed by both Garcia and Bellingham and fell into fourth position before recovering and making a hard charge down Keystone Road with his pacers to regain second place.

The turning point in the woman’s race also came in Dunedin. When nearing Weaver Park, Stipanovich, Simonet and Miller were all within minutes of each other. Stipanovich ran through the aid station and was able to make what turned out to be a decisive move.

In all, 62 of the race’s 86 starters completed the Challenge, a finishing rate of 72 percent. Tracy Connolly of St. Petersburg, Jerimiah Hartz of Riverview and Karen Alexeev of St. Petersburg all finished the event for the third time and became the event’s only three-time finishers. Alexeev was also the race’s oldest finisher at age 63, while 22-year-old Tyler Booth of Orlando who finished ninth in his first ultramarathon, was the youngest.

The PTC, which has already gained a reputation as one of the hottest ultras in the state,  featured peak temperatures in the upper 80s with a heat index well into the mid-90s. Athletes were treated to cloud cover for the first half of the race before the sun made an appearance in the early afternoon and late finishers got dumped on by a typical late afternoon Florida rain shower.

Race Director Michael Stork was pleased with the 2015 event,  saying, “This race keeps growing every year. It has become everything I had envisioned. A challenging race for the runner. A party-like atmosphere for volunteers and crews. Something that people hear about and want to be a part of it.”

For complete results see:

In the accompanying photo, Race Director Michael Stork, left, congratulates winner Patrick Hrabos of Sarasota. Photo courtesy of John Gregg.

St. Petersburg | Palm Harbor | Pinellas Trail | Events | Sports | Runs | TB Reporter

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