Palm Coast resident Sean Snyder wins 33rd Bridge of Lions 5K

Unless provoked, lions like to lounge in the shade when the sun is at its most devastating. The same could be said for those who compete in the Bridge of Lions 5K. For most, the competitive spirit is there, but is rarely aroused.

 

That was not the case Saturday morning in Davis Shores as Sean Snyder and David Cash Tampa tried to win the 33rd annual race. Along with Justin Taylor, the trio sprinted down Zorayda Avenue toward the finish line on Alcazar Street in search of a mid-summer confidence boost.

Snyder held on to beat Tampa by three seconds to win the Bridge of Lions for the first time. The 17-year-old finished in 17 minutes 15 seconds. Taylor, a legendary high school runner at St. Joseph Academy and now the Flashes cross-country coach, was third with a time of 17:27.

“It was a lot of hanging in there from the 2-mile to the 3-mile mark,” Snyder said. “I have been putting in the work all summer. I have put in 300 miles from June. My heart wasn’t racing, it was just nerves.”

For the fourth year in a row, the overall winner was someone who was training for an upcoming cross-country season. Snyder, 17, will be a senior at St. Joseph Academy. Tampa, a St. Johns resident who is a member of the University of South Florida cross-country team, would have also continued that trend.

 

 

Michelle Krueger was the women’s winner with a time of 19:34. Ponte Vedra Beach resident Katie Potts was second in the women’s competition, finishing in 19:38.

In all, 1,171 people finished the race. Those who were in front of the Castillo de San Marcos shortly after sunrise came in all shapes and abilities.

Dylan Cronk had never run a 5K race before in his life.

“I have never run a 5K, so I would like to know my time,” said Dylan Cronk, a Nashville resident who flew in for the race on Friday night.

Music City residents have produced more than their share of musical remixes and Cronk, 25, was no exception. Shortly before the gun went off, as the loudspeakers blared Katy Perry’s “Roar,” Cronk changed the chorus to “I got the eye of the lion …” as he prepared for the race.

Cronk finished in 29:41, which was right in the middle of men’s 25-29 age group.

Meredith Harrell, who also made the trip with Cronk, finished in 31:05. She is a more experienced runner than he is, but Saturday was also her first Bridge of Lions.

“I ran the River Run in March. My mom told me about this one and I decided to run it,” Harrell said. “…It’s pretty exciting to run over the bridge. I was so nervous during the River Run that I would drop my phone in one of those (grates) on the bridges.”

Saturday is one of the few days of the year when someone can walk over the center of the bridge without threat of being hit by an automobile. Temperatures were in the upper 70s, but the high humidity and gnats made the finish line at Oglethorpe Park a welcomed sight for most.

“It challenges you. In my opinion, it is the hardest race I’ve done,” said St. Augustine resident Eden Clark, who celebrated her 16th birthday on Wednesday. “It’s hot and the course tricks your mind. There are people who encourage you, which for some reason makes you not want to quit.”

Saturday was Clark’s second time running in the Bridge of Lions. Her time of 36:32 was more than three minutes faster than her 2016 finish.

Krueger has no idea how many times she has run in the Bridge of Lions; but, Saturday was her third time winning the women’s competition. Krueger who has been running competitively for 25 years considers running more of a lifestyle than a profession.

“It was unexpected,” said Krueger, the 2006 and 2012 women’s winner. “I thought I would come and see what my training is like. The summer is so hot and it’s hard to gauge that.”

Whatever Krueger’s thoughts are on her training, her recent results speak volumes. Earlier this month, the Jacksonville resident finished first in her age group at the AJC Peachtree Road Race 10K with a time of 40:35.

Krueger is a former runner at Jacksonville University, who became a high school cross-country coach in 1999 and led Episcopal to a quartet of state titles before stepping away from coaching for a few years. She is back at Episcopal, but coaching at the middle school level.

What makes the Bridge of Lions an attractive race for her is the ability to spend time on the beach with her family afterward.

As much as St. Augustine is a destination, it doesn’t compare to a place that is the self-described Happiest Place on Earth. Jessica Pankey used Saturday’s race as preparation for the Walt Disney World Marathon in January.

Pankey, 23, a student at the University of Scranton is in Northeast Florida on an internship. She heard about the race, registered online and didn’t regret a moment of it.

“I love Florida. It was beautiful running over the bridges and water,” said Pankey, a Pompton Lakes, New Jersey resident. “I kind of got lost where I was.”

Bridge of Lions 5K winners

Male Champion: Sean Snyder, 17, Palm Coast, 17:15

Female Champion: Michelle Krueger, 41, Jacksonville, 19:34

Male 1-9: Tadevos Minijanyan, 8, Palm Coast, 22:20

Female 1-0: Tatyana Leontyeva, 9, Palm Coast, 24:59

Male 10-14: Colin McDonnell, 14, New Smyrna Beach, 19:44

Female 10:14: Arevik Minijanyan, 13, Palm Coast, 21:56

Male 15-19: Jack Brunswick, 18, Acworth (Ga), 17:46

Female 15-19: Katie Potts, 19, Ponte Vedra Beach, 19:37

Male 20-24: David Cash Tampa, 20, St. Johns, 17:18

Female 20-24: Katie Johnson, 23, Melbourne 20:44

Male 25-29: Dylan Glass, 25, St. Augustine, 19:05

Female 25-29: Maggie McCloskey, 25, Gainesville, 23:08

Male 30-34: Justin Taylor, 31, St. Augustine, 17:27

Female 30-34: Elizabeth Mihlebach, 31, Melbourne Beach, 21:15

Male 35-39: Rich Smith, 38, Gainesville, 20:24

Female 35-39: Annie Price, 35, Valdosta (Ga.), 22:23

Male 40-44: Jaimy Piccirilli, 44, Jacksonville, 20:18

Female 40-44: Tracy Dutra, 44, Melbourne, 21:09

Male 45-49: Steve Vighetti, 48, St. Augustine, 18:53

Female 45-49: Kristine Williams, 45, St. Augustine 21.35

Male 50-54: Jody Marolf, 54, Palm Coast, 20:19

Female 50-54: Alison Ronzon, 53, Neptune Beach, 23:10

Male 55-59: Rob Jennis, 56, St. Johns, 25:53

Female 55-59: Darien Andreu, 57, St. Augustine, 22:01

Male 60-64: Jim Musante, 60, New Smyrna Beach, 22:13

Female 60-64: Debora Diaz, 61, Ormond Beach, 26:46

Male 65-69: Joseph Murray, 68, St. Johns, 26:16

Female 65-69: Deborah Roberts, 67, DeLand, 33:33

Male 70-74: Kyle Worrell, 72, St. Augustine Beach, 27:44

Female 70-74: Carol Vaneman, 70, St. Augustine, 37:20

Male 75+:John Boyle, 75, DeLand, 27:21

Female 75+: Kay Jones, 75, Ponte Vedra Beach, 35:50

Oldest Male: Jim Hughes, 84, St. Augustine, 1:00.13

Oldest Female: Esther Chinnery, 78 Melbourne, 59:28

Youngest Male: Michael Rybak, 5, Palm Coast, 27:45

Youngest Female: Alexandra Gerspacher, 5, Jacksonville Beach, 36:55

 

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