Curtis' tuneup: record-setting win in Gasparilla 8k
TAMPA - Sunday's Publix Super Markets Gasparilla Distance Classic 8k race was a walk in the park for Bobby Curtis, who just happens to be one of the fastest distance runners in the world. No wonder Curtis' relative stroll led to a course record of 23 minutes, 30 seconds (4:43 a mile pace). Several bystanders, however, wondered why Curtis was barreling down Bayshore Boulevard on a balmy Sunday without any serious competition? "I needed a race tuneup," said Curtis, a 28-year-old sponsored by the Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project, the names of which were stretched across his chest. "Coming up I have the 15k U.S. Nationals and the (10k World Championships in Moscow this summer)."Sunday's appearance made more sense because Curtis was training this week in Orlando, where during the winter months he alternates weeks of workouts between Orlando and Michigan, home of the Hansons-Brooks organization. "My coach told me to come over and run this race," said a smiling Curtis, who has run America's seventh-fastest 10,000 meters in 27:24. "It turned out to be a great decision because this is a very well-run race at a great venue." Curtis handily beat Hansons-Brooks teammate Dustin Emerick, who cruised in as the runner-up in 24:28. The next closest finisher was Tampa's Jon Noland, 38, who followed in 26:37. "I've never been to Tampa before but I think I'd like to come back," said Emerick, 23. "This (tuneup race) worked out really great. It's a beautiful city." Curtis' time shattered the previous 8k record of 26.42 set last year by Oscar Orozco. The only criticism from the leading visitors was that it was a bit hot, a sentiment echoed by the women's 8k champion, Gainesville's Stephanie McGrail, who finished in 32:07. "I felt great starting out, but then the last few miles it started getting a little warm," said McGrail, 26. "At that point, though, I was just giving it everything I had." McGrail admitted that she didn't expect to win Sunday's race because she hasn't been training extra hard and she came down to Tampa merely as part of a visit to her aunt, MaryAnn Gilbert, who lives on Davis Islands. "At the starting line I was thinking a top-five finish might be nice," McGrail said. "It was a lot of fun to get out to the lead and then win. It turned out to be a great day."