Windy day greets 2021 Gate River Run

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 3/24/21

JACKSONVILLE - The two winners for the Gate River Run 15K American championship running race on Saturday decided two fates with their strategies concerning strong head winds and cool …

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Windy day greets 2021 Gate River Run


JACKSONVILLE - The two winners for the Gate River Run 15K American championship running race on Saturday decided two fates with their strategies concerning strong head winds and cool temperatures.

Womens champion Emily Sisson, 29, from Phoenix, AZ, blasted from the start in an effort to put a gap on the stellar field then hold on over the Hart Bridge and nearly 40 miles per hour headwinds. More than 6,000 runners finished the grueling 9.3 mile trek throughout downtown Jacksonville with two bridges; the Main Street Bridge and the dreaded Green Monster-Hart Bridge, the final two miles of the race. All results can be found at

For the men, winner Clayton Young, 27, of Provo, UT, the race was going to be won with a surge on the Hart Bridge, but without the early race effort of Sisson. At the men’s elite start, John Raneri, of Flagstaff, AZ, took the start by storm as Sisson did, but later glided back into the chase pack to offer some protection from the buffeting winds.

In the final Hart Bridge approach and finish, Sisson and three other women had broken away enough that the coveted Equalizer price; a $5000 award for the first person across the finish line with the women starting six minutes ahead of the men, to take the first four spots for 2021 with Young having enough push to outsprint Abbabiya Simbassa, of Flagstaff, and former Gate River Run winner Shadrack Kipshirchir of Colorado Springs, CO, to win the mens prize.

Sisson finished in 48 minutes, nine seconds with Young in at 43:52, will under the six minute advantage given to the women.

Top local runners were St. Johns Country Day School eighth grader Rebecca Stratton, 14, taking second in her age group in 1:07.17 behind Lucrezia Gowdy, 14, of Jacksonville, in at 1:03:21.

One historicaly and monumental finish came from Fleming Island master’s runner Britta Fortson, 48, who took an amazing third in her age group in 1:06:16. Fortson has had a long battle with cancer after being a stalwart runner in the area and has quickly regained her championship running form.

One passing of the sword moment was Graham Myers, 14, of Orange Park, an Oakleaf High distance runner, finishing as top area finisher in 107th place in 55:43 in a spot normally saved for his dad, Gary Myers, 48, who finished as third Clay County runner in 1:01:43 for 160th place. Owen Skelton, 18, of Orange Park, was 154th in 1:01:23. Josue Velazquez, 30, of Orange Park, was 167th at 1:01:52.

For the women, Belissa Del Valle, 33, of Orange Park, and fresh off a new baby, was top Clay County female at 1:03:25 for 266th place. Fortson was second fastest Clay County finisher at 373rd with Stratton third at 401st place.

In the 80-Over women, Orange Park’s Patt Mcevers, 81, took second in 2:49:13 with Barbara Barsh, 80, of Jacksonville, winning in 2:42:14.

Former St. Johns Country Day School coach Jay Birmingham, 75, finished seventh in his age group in 2:04:33.


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