JACKSONVILLE – Keystone Heights High grad Enoch Nadler has the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in Atlanta on his back bumper, but, on the way, the fleet-footed road racer made a stop in downtown …
JACKSONVILLE – Keystone Heights High grad Enoch Nadler has the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in Atlanta on his back bumper, but, on the way, the fleet-footed road racer made a stop in downtown Jacksonville Saturday night for a “speed” test.
“Five seconds faster than last year, I’ll take it,” said Nadler, 32, who now heads up the Florida Track Club elite racing team in Gainesville. “This is the last race of the spring. I had my two fastest track 5Ks beating my college times, my fastest 1500 meters and now this, my favorite race of the year.”
Nadler not only revved his engine in defense of his title from last, but blasted the field with a five second improvement of last year’s time.
“I credit a lot of the speed these past two years with training with fast people,” said Nadler, a standout runner for the University of Florida after leaving Keystone Heights. “Our elite club improves each day and gives me a core group of fast runners to train with and that’s key. It’s very tough to train hard by yourself and my team keeps me sharp.”
From the starting cannon’s smoke-filled blast, Nadler exploded off the start line to put the chase on the women’s field who had started two minutes earlier and had a $100 Equalizer bonus attached to the endeavor. With the Equalizer bonus as part of the equation, the first runner across the line; male or female, would capture the extra prize money.
“It definitely is a worthy chase,” said Nadler. “I was coming here to test myself and go fast, but the extra cash on the line makes it more exciting.”
Nadler would not take long to catch early womens race leader Ani Veltcheva, a 14 year old phenom and a two time Florida middle school state cross country champ out of Gainesville’s Abraham Lincoln Middle School, who tested Nadler’s resolve in the first two laps with her own seemingly-suicidal pace that put the stellar women’s field on notice.
With racers taking a figure eight course from the Landing around the CSX building and in front of the Florida Times Union Center, Veltcheva kept her substantial lead on the women for two laps while Nadler hunted her down by ping-ponging around the women’s field on the first of the four laps.
By lap three, Nadler had taken control of both fields and pushed his 4:40 per mile pace to the finish line for a 14:32 time with Tyler Stahl, 21, a very distant second at 15:28. R.J. Dorazil, 39, took third in 16:05. One other area athlete, Oakleaf High junior Dylan Nelson, 16, finished seventh in 17:00.
For Veltcheva, the pass by Nadler on lap three put a damper on her courageous start with veterans Crystal Davis and Claudia Jalon, both 24, giving chase with Jacksonville’s Julie Stackhouse still in the three-racer mix.
On the final lap, Davis, a frequent racer in Orange Park, tapped on the accelerator just enough in the final 600 yard stretch in front of the Time Union Center to hold off Jalon for the top prize in 17:48. Jalon finished second in 17:52 with Veltcheva having enough reserve to edge Stackhouse for third with both clocked in at 18:11.
In the ensuing open Run for the Pies 5K, Steven Cartwright, 14, of Jacksonville, held of a 1200 runner field to edge Brad Smith, 48, of Ponte Vedra Beach, with a winning 17:30 split by four seconds. Top area male finisher was Josue Velazquez, 27, of Orange Park, in 16th at 18:42.
For the women’s race, Val Kline, 32, of Jacksonville, was top female in 19:25 for 39th overall over Orange Park’s Belissa Del Valle, 30,
Keystone Heights High School miler Camryn Williams, 14, won her age group in 21:24. John Keester IV, 12, of Fleming Island, won his age group in 18:30. Joe Rivera, 51, of Orange Park, won his age group in 19:00.