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Fast final miles highlight Gate River Run 15K

Randy Lefko
Sports Editor
Posted 3/7/24

JACKSONVILLE - With the top three men's finishers clocking last miles as fast as four minutes, 15 seconds, 4:13 and 4:11, for the men and 4:42, 4:51 and 4:55 for the women, the 2024 Gate River Run …

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Fast final miles highlight Gate River Run 15K


JACKSONVILLE - With the top three men's finishers clocking last miles as fast as four minutes, 15 seconds, 4:13 and 4:11, for the men and 4:42, 4:51 and 4:55 for the women, the 2024 Gate River Run 15K American championship race got some welcomed dry weather and fast times as nearly 14,000 runners traversed the Jacksonville 9.3 mile race on Saturday.

Up front among the elite racers vying for prize money and an American title, Teshome Mekonen and USA Olympic steeple chaser and 2023 Gate River Run 15K champion Hillary Bor battled over the infamous Hart Bridge with Mekonen with a 4:11 final mile to win by just four seconds in 42:50 with Bor, despite a 4:11 final mile, unable to answer Mekonen's earlier push after both exited the Hart Bridge and hit a flat spot to the finish line. Diego Estrada, 34, from Colorado, was third in 43:24.
Mekonen increased his prize money cache for the day's work ($12,000 for win, $5,000 for equalizer bonus) by crossing the finish line in front of women's champion Rachel Smith who finished in 48:26 with the Equalizer lead of five minutes at the start. Smith also outstretched at the final 100 yards with women's runner up Keira D'Amato also just four seconds off the winner's mark.
Top area runners; in a list of gender finishers in Florida, Fleming Island High senior track runner Allie Knotts was first area runner, second in 14-19 age group, in 382nd overall place in 1:05:33 with teammate Marlea Feld at 383rd in 1:05:34 and third in 14-19 age group. A third Fleming Island High runner, Sydney Fallin was 490th in 1:07:37.
Alma Nick, 41, was in at 1:08;41 for 559th finisher with McCall Thoemke, 30, in at 1:08:42 for 561st place.
One noteworthy finisher is cancer survivor and a stalwart runner for years in the area, Britta Fortson, 51, in 1:09:59 in 653rd ahead of another area stalwart in Orange Park's Mae Barker, 46, in at 1:10:02 in 656th.
One of the youngest area finishers was 13 year old Eve Schlotthauer, a Florida Strider and also a Fleming Island High runner, in at 1:11:33 for third in the 13-Under age group and 761st overall.
St. Johns Country Day School senior cross country ace Rebecca Stratton was in at 1:11:40 for 770th.
For the men's area runners, former Orange Park High standout Justin Jacobs, now 41, still showed strong legs with a top finish in 53:37 for 57th overall. Jacobs now lives in Ponte Vedra Beach. Jacobs finished just behind former North Florida Golf Academy golf teacher Tim Cooper in the master's award for top Master's runner.
Fleming Island High senior state cross country medalist Graham Myers was top area runner in 55:20 for 73rd place with teammate John Keester IV running most of the race with Myers in at 55:40 for 78th with both finishing first and second in the 14-19 age group.
Myers father, Gary Myers, 51, was in at 1:07:32.
Andrew Boyer, also a Fleming Island standout, was in at 58:11 for 130th.
Former Clay High cross country standout Carlton Waiguru, 20, finished in 56:50 for 101st with Matthew Stevens, 31, of Fleming Island, in at 58:22 for 135th.
Orange Park standout Cole Atzert, 16, was in at 58:46 for 147th with Ty Pope, 16, in at 59:27 for 161st.
Members of the world famous Pavement Killers running club out of Fleming Island; 22nd team overall with Alma Nick top club finisher, included Jacqueling Kroggel, 43, in 1:21:13 for 1753rd; Vanessa Lain, 50, in 1:21:57 for 1848th; Brian McGready, 55, in at 1:18:29 for 1415th; Judy Lind, 79, in at 2:43:04 for 10,410th; Millie Thrasher, 52, in at 1:17:38 for 2698th; Carolyn Krall, 44, in at 1:21:01 ahead of husband Eric Krall, 44, in at 1:26:30 for 2523rd; Cinzia Rothrock, 51, in at 1:17:01 for 1257th; Holly Sanford, 47, in at 1:17:47 for 1324th; Annette Shannon, 54, in at 1:18:15, for 1387th; Christina Mitchell, 53rd in 1:16:38 for 1171st; Jennifer Szala, 49, in 1:16:38 for 1286th; Alexandra Shoemaker, 34, in 1:19:48 for 1867th; Alexandra Reinhardt, 37, in 1:28:34 for 1174th; Trung Lively, 55, in 1:29:43 for 6787th; Sway Lively, 52, in 1:30:08 for 2403rd and Kristie Schneider, 41, in 2:05:27 for 6385th.
The Florida Striders team that consisted of the area high schoolers finished fifth with Myers, Waiguru, Gary Myers, both Schlotthauers; Eve and Emma, 17, plus Steve Beard, 68, in at 1:15:49 for 1162nd, Dan Herrera, 30, in 1:19:16 for 986th; Charley King, 34, in 1:19:59 for 5382nd; Patrick Mceachin, 49, in 1:27:23 for 1086th; Becky Wood, 59, in 1:42:12 for 4015th with husband Bobby on the First Place Sports winning team with a 1:12:24 finish for 325th; Joni Neidigh, 64, in 1:42:12 for 4261st, Barbara Knox, 51, in 2:27:23 for 713rd and "Mean" Jean Schubert, 73, in 2:50:54 for 7701st.
Also on the 1st Place Sports team was David Bonnette, 57, in 1:11:04 for 1361st.