MELBOURNE, FL (Feb. 8) — It was widely expected that four-time Olympic Games performer Colleen DeReuck would win the women’s USA Masters Half-Marathon title. However, Paul Aufdemberg wasn’t sure about his chances in the featured event of the inaugural State Farm Melbourne & Beaches Music Marathon.
“Sean (Wade) had just run 1:07 three weeks ago in Houston, so I knew he was in great shape,” Aufdemberg said. “I felt good, too, but I didn’t know what kind of a fight I would give him.”
The 44-year-old Aufdemberg put a huge feather in his Master’s cap Sunday by taking the race to Wade, then pulling ahead for good with four miles remaining to win the Masters crown with a time of 1:08:05. DeReuck continued her stranglehold on the women’s masters field with another impressive victory, winning in 1:13:15. NCAA Division III Cross-Country Coach of the Year Jody Hawkins was second in 1:20:06.
Aufdemberg and DeReuck were joined on the winners’ podium by marathon overall champions Paul McRae of Jacksonville, FL (2:50:20) and Bethany Heslam of North Port, FL (3:18:45), and Florida Today 5K overall titlists Erik Fagan of Melbourne Beach, FL (17:37) and Danielle Lusk of Rockledge, FL (20:56). More than 1,500 runners competed in the days’ races, held in ideal Florida winter conditions.
“I was going to make my first move later in the race, but I started moving at about five miles,” said Aufdemberg, who won a total of $1,750 on the day. “When Sean caught me, I decided to go ahead again at nine. I didn’t want to have to face his kick at the end, because it’s so good, so I tried not to look back and just tried to expand the lead. I felt good after the final hill (11.5 miles), and felt more confident that I would win.”
The victories by Aufdemberg and DeReuck capped a day that featured tremendous half-marathon performances at both ends of the age spectrum, from 13-year-old Dakota Cobler’s 1:30:12 to 72-year-old elite runner Bill Riley’s 1:32:02.
Aufdemberg was followed in the age-graded men’s USA Masters Half-Marathon Championships by Wade, Dennis Simonaitis, Tracy Lokken, Eric Ashton, Riley, Bob Winn, Jim Derick, Carl Rundell and David Oliver. DeReuck led the women’s division over Kathryn Martin, Barbara Miller, Victoria Crisp, Suzanne Ray, Lisa Veneziano, Beth Moras, Nancy Frey and Margie Stoll.
“Overall, this event far exceeded expectations,” event producer Mitch Varnes said. “There was an incredible age range of athletes, which shows the depth of running. We had first-timers and walkers in the 5K, and we had some of the finest masters athletes in the world in the half-marathon. All in all, it was a tremendous inaugural event.”
For full results, go to www.altavistasports.com.