Saturday, April 16, 2016

Merrett and Veltcheva come to town to take the Palace

On Saturday morning, 16 April 2016, Hundreds of runners were still finishing the 42nd annual Palace Saloon 5K, but Nick Merrett was already perched on the rail of the Budweiser Creek bridge, sipping a post-race beverage.


"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.


Nick Merrett


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.


Ani Veltcheva


"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."


Emma Reed


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.


Matt MizereckTop Ten Men, Gulf Winds Track Club's 2016 Palace Saloon 5K
  1. 15:53 ~ Nick Merrett (M, 24) Pensacola, FL
  2. 15:56 ~ Christopher Haynes (M, 23) Jacksonville, FL
  3. 16:15 ~ Matt Mizereck (M, 24) Tallahassee, FL
  4. 16:18 ~ Nate Kaiser (M, 36) Tallahassee, FL
  5. 16:26 ~ Don Kerrigan (M, 22) Pensacola, FL
  6. 16:44 ~ Bryan Koon (M, 44) Tallahassee, FL
  7. 16:47 ~ Poncherella Leonard (M, 18) Bainbridge, GA
  8. 16:51 ~ Charlie Johnson (M, 36) Tallahassee, FL
  9. 17:01 ~ Zach Deveau (M, 28) Tallahassee, FL
  10. 17:03 ~ Armando Abaunza (M, 23) Tallahassee, FL

Adriana PiekarewiczTop Ten Women, Gulf Winds Track Club's 2016 Palace Saloon 5K
  1. 18:13 ~ Ani Veltcheva (F, 11) Gainesville, FL
  2. 18:25 ~ Emma Reed (F, 26) Tallahassee, FL
  3. 18:54 ~ Adriana Piekarewicz (F, 27) Tallahassee, FL
  4. 19:49 ~ Brittney Barnes (F, 28) Tallahassee, FL
  5. 20:07 ~ Mary Rychlik (F, 29) Orlando, FL
  6. 20:38 ~ Jillian Heddaeus (F, 33) Tallahassee, FL
  7. 20:39 ~ Caitlin Wilkey (F, 14) Tallahassee, FL
  8. 20:49 ~ Katie Sherron (F, 34) Tallahassee, FL
  9. 21:18 ~ Katie Sack (F, 24) Tallahassee, FL
  10. 21:38 ~ Stacie Elliott (F, 33) Tallahassee, FL

42 Years of Palace Saloon 5K Champions, 1975 - 2016
DateMenWomenFinishers
16 April 201615:53, Nick Merrett18:13, Ani Veltcheva1048
11 April 201515:29, Tyler Udland17:54, Lauren Poulos1314
12 April 201415:52, Chris Lake17:45, Amy Hines1303
20 April 201315:46, Stanley Linton17:49, Sheryl Rosen1389
14 April 201216:07, Josh Myers17:20, Lindsay Zeiler1190
16 April 201115:48, Chris Lake 18:24, Lindsay Zeiler 1064
10 April 201015:45, Chris Lake 17:42, Christina Woytalewicz 1214
11 April 200916:21, John Robida 18:11, Lisa Johnson 1022
12 April 200815:25, Nick Sunseri 18:46, Lisa Johnson 782
14 April 200716:12, J. P. Cook 17:14, Breeda Willis 537
15 April 200616:04, Justin Cross 18:33, Stephanie Liles 456
16 April 200516:06, Lee Willis 16:31, Breeda Willis 318
10 April 200416:39, Shawn Patterson 18:29, Breeda Willis 299
12 April 200316:26, Martin Littlefield 19:21, Tricia Snyder 257
13 April 200217:22, Chris Stanley 21:03, Allison Eagen 189
14 April 200116:51, Art Remillard 19:05, Kate Wallace 219
15 April 200015:39, Paul Spangler 17:19, Anna Pichrtova 217
17 April 199915:45, Robert Pautienus 17:22, Sarah Docter-Williams 261
18 April 199816:18, Jason Carter 17:29, Sarah Docter-Williams 238
19 April 199715:53, Gary Droze 17:37, Sarah Docter-Williams 169
6 April 199615:55, Gary Droze 17:59, Jane Johnson 134
8 April 199516:01, Tim Simpkins 17:48, Jane Johnson 188
2 April 199414:56, Robin Rogers 17:51, Lisa Herman 252
3 April 199315:30, Andy Palmer 19:37, Carrie Hunnicutt 270
11 April 199215:48, Gary Droze 17:45, Paula Johnson ?
13 April 199115:10, Gary Droze 18:20, Vikki Saga 371
14 April 199014:57, David Keen 18:38, Vikki Saga
15 April 198915:23, Rick Miller 19:05, Yvonne Gsteiger
9 April 198815:30, Rick Miller 17:55, Karen MacHarg
11 April 198715:03, Jacob Hoesly 17:33, Karen MacHarg
12 April 198614:36, Paul Waldron 18:44, Paige Dempsey
9 March 198515:39, Rick Miller 17:52, Margaret Coomber
18 February 198415:32, Greg Doss 16:34, Kristy McDermott
16 April 198314:52, Rick Miller 16:38, Darien Andreu
20 March 1982??????????
21 March 198115:02, Dennis Lunne 18:16, Janice Gage
8 March 198014:59, George West 19:37, Marty Graham
10 March 197914:55, Tom Herron 17:37, Kathy Moore
15 January 1977George West?????
25 February 197814:30, George West 17:45, Laura Ledbetter
14 August 197614:37, George West 18:05, Janice Gage
15 November 197518:17, David Price 19:56, Janice Gage


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