UT Runners Take Gasparilla by Storm

5K and Half-Marathon titles taken by UT Students, Alumnus

Published: Mar 8, 2012
Jessica Butler ’12 won the Publix Super Markets Gasparilla  5k with a time of 17 minutes and 45 seconds.
Jessica Butler ’12 won the Publix Super Markets Gasparilla 5k with a time of 17 minutes and 45 seconds.
The road was nearly empty for the second half of Charles Toledo’s 3.1-mile run, though the UT junior started the Publix Super Markets Gasparilla 5K race in a swarm of people.

“When I came through the first mile at 5 minutes, 6 seconds, I surged on the next mile and no one followed,” said Toledo, a history major and member of UT’s track and cross country teams. “I knew it was over at that point.”

Toledo won the March 3 race with a time of 15 minutes, 35 seconds. He was proud to win though not overly excited with his finish time.

“I don’t run my best by myself,” he said. “It’s always best to have someone right behind you, pushing you.”

The Tampa native participated in the race as a challenge for himself, especially since he’ll have to miss several good races this track season due to his obligations with ROTC. Toledo, who is attending UT for free with his ROTC scholarship, has flourished at the University. He has excelled academically and improved on his running, all within driving distance of his family. “I can’t imagine being happier anywhere else,” he said. “I’m very happy with where I’m at.”

Toledo said he’s been surprised but delighted by the attention — by local media, family and friends — he’s received since winning on Saturday.

“You’d think I won the Super Bowl. Even my fifth grade teacher messaged me on Facebook,” said Toledo. “It’s a good feeling.”

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Jessica Butler ’12 felt good when she crossed the finish line as the Gasparilla women’s winner with a time of 17 minutes and 45 seconds.

“I enjoyed it,” said Butler, an exercise science major with a minor in art. “It’s a fun race.”

Butler, who was an All-American her sophomore year, had to sit out much of 2011 due to injuries and illness which she said only served to motivate her.

“You can always better yourself at running, always push yourself,” she said. “I’ve had a series of injuries and that always pushed me. It didn’t bring me down.”

Butler ran the same time this year in the warm weather as she did two years ago in much nicer conditions. That gave her confidence.

“I finally feel like I’m back (at 100 percent) with my workouts and hopefully will be getting good races in,” Butler said. “Running is a tough sport, but it’s addictive.”

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As if two titles weren’t enough for the University to be proud of, alumnus Elias Gonzalez ’04, former standout runner for UT, finished the March 4 Gasparilla Half Marathon in first place, covering 13.1 miles in 1 hour, 12 minutes and 13 seconds.

This is the second year in a row that Gonzalez, who graduated with a bachelor’s in marketing, has won the men’s title for the half marathon.


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