Published: February 28, 2011
TAMPA - When Brianne Gaal returned recently to her alma mater, St. Petersburg's Northside Christian, to be inducted into the school's Hall of Fame, something a little disturbing dawned on her.
She realized that some of the students there may not have been alive when, under her maiden name of Brianne Harrington, she was winning nine state titles in cross country and track between 1994 and 1997.
"Some of the students were calling me 'Ma'am' or 'Ms. Harrington,'" said Gaal, 31 and living in Cary, N.C., with her ex-pro triathlete husband, Marty. "That's a little weird. It made me feel so much older than them, even though I still feel like a little kid inside."
To see her win Gasparilla's 8k race Sunday, Gaal still looks and runs a lot like that skinny but incredibly gifted Northside kid from the 1990s. Thing is, Gaal had no plans on being the first woman across the finish in the race's first year. Her winning time for the approximately five-mile distance was 32 minutes, 34 seconds - just over 6:33 per mile.
Taking second was 37-year-old Rae Ann Darling Reed (33:26) of Bradenton and third was St. Petersburg's Christina Noordstar (33:57).
A veteran of several of Gasparilla's 5k races and a former standout for the University of Central Florida, Gaal said she entered Sunday's 8k as a finale to a triathlon training camp she was staging with some of the athletes she coaches with Marty, who took part in Sunday's half marathon.
Next thing she knew, Gaal saw Noordstar, who is also an accomplished runner/triathlete, and caught up with her. Then Gaal passed her and found herself breaking the tape at the finish line.
"I'm really surprised I won," said Gaal, who works as a financial analyst. "I'm surprised that I felt that good after a ton of runs, bikes and swimming in the ocean."
The men's 8k winner also was surprised with his victory. For Joshua Prevatt, however, it was his fourth race of the weekend as he was completing the circuit for the Michelob Ultra Challenge involving all four of the Gasparilla events.
Prevatt already had run the 15k and the 5k on Saturday and less than two hours before the start of Sunday's 8k, completed the half marathon to earn seventh place overall. The 26-year-old Brandon resident crossed the 8k line in 28:06, well clear of second-place finisher Anthony Calingo of Tampa, who finished 34 seconds back.
When asked what he did between the two races, Prevatt laughed and said, "I warmed up for a couple of miles to stay loose."
He noted he was riding the high he got from the half marathon.
"My half marathon time (1:15:35) was only 45 seconds off of my PR (personal record), so I thought why not go for it. I am running the Fort DeSoto half (marathon) soon and will be going for 1:14. Today's results are encouraging."
As with the women's winner, Prevatt is local, having run for Riverview High. He led his cross country team to the state meet his senior year (2001) and ran at the state track meet the following spring as part of the 4x800-meter relay team.
"But then I took a couple of years off after high school," he said. "I'm just now really getting into (distance running and racing)."