"This was more of a test run," said Merrett. "I'm really training for cross."
Merrett was wearing a racing vest from his cross country team, the University of West Florida Argonauts, emphasizing his focus on that sport. But if the Palace Saloon 5K was a test, Merrett had aced it. The New Zealander won the Tallahassee, Florida race in 15:53, the fastest 5K on the city's streets so far this year. Merrett wasn't the only athlete from out-of-town to do well at the Palace. Gainesville, Florida's Ani Veltcheva won the women's title, placing fifteenth overall in 18:13.
For the 40th time in its 42-year history, the race started from Messer Park. Matt Mizereck of Capital City Runners was the early pacesetter, taking a lead pack of ten athletes through the first mile in 5:10. Mizereck was still in front when the leaders passed the two-mile mark in 10:24, but the group was down to six runners. One of those six was Nick Merrett.
"I hadn't raced since November so I was kind of testing the waters," said Merrett. "At two miles I decided I had to go."
Merret went, and the lead pack strung out behind him. The climb up Michelob Ridge was ahead, the one big uphill on the course.
|The leaders at the two-mile mark|
"I mis-timed the hill," said Merrett. "I got about 50 meters from the top and ran out of steam."
He still had enough in the tank to make it to the top, and after that it was a half a mile downhill to the finish line. Chris Haynes was narrowing the gap at the end, but Merrett made it home first in 15:53. Haynes was second in 15:56 and Mizereck third in 16:15. Tallahassee's Nate Kaiser was fourth in 16:18 and another UWF distance runner, Don Kerrigan, took fifth in 16:26. Bryan Koon, Florida's Director of Emergency Management, was the fastest master runner in the race, placing sixth overall in 16:44.
Ani Veltcheva came into the weekend trying to choose between the Betty Griffin House 5K in Saint Augustine and the Palace Saloon 5K. Two years earlier Veltcheva had run 18:47, the single-age world record for nine-year-old girls, at the Saint Augustine race. But the Palace Saloon 5K was in Tallahassee, and Ani's sister, Toni, goes to Florida State University in Tallahassee.
"I rode the course earlier," said Toni. "Then I told Ani it was a great course."
That bit of salesmanship got Ani to the starting line in Tallahassee. Emma Reed led the women's field for most of the first half of the race, then Ani took over during the second mile. Veltcheva didn't have to look back after that, cruising home first in the women's standings in 18:13, her best time ever. Reed was the women's runner-up, sixteenth overall in 18:25. Adriana Piekarewicz placed third on the women's side, 22nd overall in 18:54. Angela Dempsey was the top woman master and twelfth female finisher, coming in 95th overall in 22:00.
"It's pretty fun!" said Ani, enthusing about the course. "It's hilly at the end but it's flat at the beginning."
You won't find any topography like that in Saint Augustine.
Ani is a sixth-grader at Abraham Lincoln Middle School, where she runs on the cross country team in the fall and the track team in the spring. Right now, track is in full swing.
"I qualified for State in the mile and the two-mile," said Ani. "That's in May."
But before that, she has a math competition next week. There are still scholar-athletes in the world.
|The start of the 42nd annual Palace Saloon 5K|
1048 finished the 42nd annual Palace Saloon 5K. Gulf Winds Track Club club chip-timed the race.
Top Ten Men, Gulf Winds Track Club's 2016 Palace Saloon 5K
- 15:53 ~ Nick Merrett (M, 24) Pensacola, FL
- 15:56 ~ Christopher Haynes (M, 23) Jacksonville, FL
- 16:15 ~ Matt Mizereck (M, 24) Tallahassee, FL
- 16:18 ~ Nate Kaiser (M, 36) Tallahassee, FL
- 16:26 ~ Don Kerrigan (M, 22) Pensacola, FL
- 16:44 ~ Bryan Koon (M, 44) Tallahassee, FL
- 16:47 ~ Poncherella Leonard (M, 18) Bainbridge, GA
- 16:51 ~ Charlie Johnson (M, 36) Tallahassee, FL
- 17:01 ~ Zach Deveau (M, 28) Tallahassee, FL
- 17:03 ~ Armando Abaunza (M, 23) Tallahassee, FL
Top Ten Women, Gulf Winds Track Club's 2016 Palace Saloon 5K
- 18:13 ~ Ani Veltcheva (F, 11) Gainesville, FL
- 18:25 ~ Emma Reed (F, 26) Tallahassee, FL
- 18:54 ~ Adriana Piekarewicz (F, 27) Tallahassee, FL
- 19:49 ~ Brittney Barnes (F, 28) Tallahassee, FL
- 20:07 ~ Mary Rychlik (F, 29) Orlando, FL
- 20:38 ~ Jillian Heddaeus (F, 33) Tallahassee, FL
- 20:39 ~ Caitlin Wilkey (F, 14) Tallahassee, FL
- 20:49 ~ Katie Sherron (F, 34) Tallahassee, FL
- 21:18 ~ Katie Sack (F, 24) Tallahassee, FL
- 21:38 ~ Stacie Elliott (F, 33) Tallahassee, FL
|42 Years of Palace Saloon 5K Champions, 1975 - 2016|
|16 April 2016||15:53, Nick Merrett||18:13, Ani Veltcheva||1048|
|11 April 2015||15:29, Tyler Udland||17:54, Lauren Poulos||1314|
|12 April 2014||15:52, Chris Lake||17:45, Amy Hines||1303|
|20 April 2013||15:46, Stanley Linton||17:49, Sheryl Rosen||1389|
|14 April 2012||16:07, Josh Myers||17:20, Lindsay Zeiler||1190|
|16 April 2011||15:48, Chris Lake||18:24, Lindsay Zeiler||1064|
|10 April 2010||15:45, Chris Lake||17:42, Christina Woytalewicz||1214|
|11 April 2009||16:21, John Robida||18:11, Lisa Johnson||1022|
|12 April 2008||15:25, Nick Sunseri||18:46, Lisa Johnson||782|
|14 April 2007||16:12, J. P. Cook||17:14, Breeda Willis||537|
|15 April 2006||16:04, Justin Cross||18:33, Stephanie Liles||456|
|16 April 2005||16:06, Lee Willis||16:31, Breeda Willis||318|
|10 April 2004||16:39, Shawn Patterson||18:29, Breeda Willis||299|
|12 April 2003||16:26, Martin Littlefield||19:21, Tricia Snyder||257|
|13 April 2002||17:22, Chris Stanley||21:03, Allison Eagen||189|
|14 April 2001||16:51, Art Remillard||19:05, Kate Wallace||219|
|15 April 2000||15:39, Paul Spangler||17:19, Anna Pichrtova||217|
|17 April 1999||15:45, Robert Pautienus||17:22, Sarah Docter-Williams||261|
|18 April 1998||16:18, Jason Carter||17:29, Sarah Docter-Williams||238|
|19 April 1997||15:53, Gary Droze||17:37, Sarah Docter-Williams||169|
|6 April 1996||15:55, Gary Droze||17:59, Jane Johnson||134|
|8 April 1995||16:01, Tim Simpkins||17:48, Jane Johnson||188|
|2 April 1994||14:56, Robin Rogers||17:51, Lisa Herman||252|
|3 April 1993||15:30, Andy Palmer||19:37, Carrie Hunnicutt||270|
|11 April 1992||15:48, Gary Droze||17:45, Paula Johnson||?|
|13 April 1991||15:10, Gary Droze||18:20, Vikki Saga||371|
|14 April 1990||14:57, David Keen||18:38, Vikki Saga|
|15 April 1989||15:23, Rick Miller||19:05, Yvonne Gsteiger|
|9 April 1988||15:30, Rick Miller||17:55, Karen MacHarg|
|11 April 1987||15:03, Jacob Hoesly||17:33, Karen MacHarg|
|12 April 1986||14:36, Paul Waldron||18:44, Paige Dempsey|
|9 March 1985||15:39, Rick Miller||17:52, Margaret Coomber|
|18 February 1984||15:32, Greg Doss||16:34, Kristy McDermott|
|16 April 1983||14:52, Rick Miller||16:38, Darien Andreu|
|20 March 1982||?????||?????|
|21 March 1981||15:02, Dennis Lunne||18:16, Janice Gage|
|8 March 1980||14:59, George West||19:37, Marty Graham|
|10 March 1979||14:55, Tom Herron||17:37, Kathy Moore|
|15 January 1977||George West||?????|
|25 February 1978||14:30, George West||17:45, Laura Ledbetter|
|14 August 1976||14:37, George West||18:05, Janice Gage|
|15 November 1975||18:17, David Price||19:56, Janice Gage|
- Complete results of Gulf Winds Track Club's 2016 Palace Saloon 5K at gulfwinds.org
- More photos of the 2016 Palace Saloon 5K
- Part 1: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10107503821917573.1073742182.5215641&l=6825e71e87
- Part 2: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10107506892229643.1073742183.5215641&l=f2f251df44
- Part 3: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10107508208796233.1073742184.5215641&l=af50c8a946
- 2015 story, “Udland goes 15:29 and Poulos 17:54 for Palace Saloon 5K wins”
- 2014 story, “Lake and Hines rule at the 40th annual Palace”
- 2013 story, “Linton and Rosen lead a record crowd to the Palace Saloon”
- 2012 story, “Myers, Zeiler win the Battle of Jackson Bluff at Palace Saloon 5K”
- 2011 story, “Lake grabs his second Palace win, Zeiler her first”
- 2010 story, “Lake, Woytalewicz run into Palace Saloon 5K history”
- 2009 story, “Robida outruns a thousand to win the Palace Saloon 5K”
- 2013 Palace Saloon 5K USATF course certification map FL13028EBM
- Palace Saloon 5K website
- The Palace Saloon 5K on Facebook
- A huge list of upcoming races, but none like the Palace Saloon 5K