Rejimbal, 44, leads women in Gasparilla half marathon
TAMPA - Terri Rejimbal, 44, became the oldest open division winner in Publix Super Markets Gasparilla Distance Classic history, capturing the half marathon Sunday in 1 hour, 23 minutes, 35 seconds. It was Rejimbal's third half marathon victory at Gasparilla, having also won in 2009 and 2010. Only three other women 40 or older have won the 15k, 5k, half marathon or 8k distances during the race's 36-year history. Rejimbal, a Tampa native, is the only one to do it more than once. No man older than 40 has won a race at Gasparilla."This is my hometown," Rejimbal said. "I live down the street. I run this every day. All my friends meet and train here. … It's a beautiful course." Rejimbal's victory came by nearly four minutes. She led tape to tape, opening the race with a sub-6 minute mile that brought her onto Davis Islands, where much of the early part of the race takes place, with a sizable lead. "I know I went out really fast around the island," Rejimbal said. "I thought that would give me a good lead, because I think the hotter it gets, the more people slow. … I guess I was running scared the entire way." Although she was unable to match her personal best on the course (1:21:50, from 2011, placing second), Rejimbal was pleased with her effort. "I managed to pick it up toward the end. I guess I was smelling the finish line. I was ready to get this over with." Rejimbal did not compete at Gasparilla in 2012, and she raced fewer times last year in general. "It's nice to come back a year later and really race it, and win it," she said. Her racing schedule in 2013 should be much busier. Rejimbal plans on running the Gate River Run 15k in Jacksonville in early March, and has some longer races lined up for the spring, including the Croom 50k in Brooksville in April, and a marathon in May. A number of runners were doubling back after racing Saturday. Jacki Wachtel, 33, of New Port Richey, was second in 1:27:30, after a fourth-place showing in the previous day's 15k. Lisa Valentine, 51, of St. Petersburg, was third in 1:28:18. The winner of the 2011 and 2012 races, Jessica Crate, was in the race as a pacer, leading a pack of runners under the 1 hour, 35 minute mark.