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Neilson, Crate Victorious


Paul Neilson

Paul Neilson

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – A brisk morning turned into a hot nightclub dance floor as more than 8,000 runners were left with nothing but Good Feeling on Sunday as internationally acclaimed hip-hop artist Flo Rida delivered #1 hit after #1 hit for a rocking post-race concert at the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll St. Pete Half Marathon.

A pair of 26-year-old Floridians took home first prize on the flat, scenic course that featured several St. Petersburg landmarks including the Dali Museum, Mahaffey Theater, St. Pete Pier, Renaissance Vinoy Resort and North Shores Park. Paul Nielson of Orlando took the lead at mile 1 and never looked back to break the finish tape in 1 hour, 8 minutes and 58 seconds.

“The first three miles were cold, but I warmed up pretty nice,” said Neilson, who took home $1500 in first-place prize money. “It was a great event and very organized. My goal was to run under 1:09. I wasn’t expecting to win, but I’ll take it. I’ve only been to St. Pete a couple times and this was a great way to see the city.”

Satellite Beach resident Jessica Crate pulled away from two-time Los Angeles Marathon champion Lyubov Denisov, 40, of Russia at mile 5 to win the women’s race in 1:19:05, setting a new personal record.

“We ran together for the first four miles, and then I broke away and just tried to maintain that pace throughout the whole way,” said Crate, who won the Gasparilla Half Marathon last year. “It was an amazing race, the energy and bands were awesome. Mile eight was when it started to get tough and there was a band out there, I don’t know who they are, but they were loud and crazy and awesome.”

Softball Olympian Michele Smith, a two-time Olympic gold medalist with Team USA, completed the 13.1-mile course in 1:50:25. The St. Petersburg resident is a 7-time Japanese Pro League Champion & MVP, and member of the ASA Softball Hall of Fame.

As the sunshine began to warm things up at 10:00am, the post-race celebration was well underway as the artist with the hottest single on the radio took the main stage to the cheers of thousands of runners and arm-waving spectators. After opening with several of his chart-topping hits, Flo Rida welcomed dozens of runners’ onstage wearing medals, race bibs and mylar blankets to dance to his smash hit Low.

His performance concluded with the #1 pop song in the country, Good Feeling, which he dedicated to the “late, great” Whitney Houston. Ever the showman, Flo Rida gave away his shirt, shoes and his gold chain, departing straight from the performance to attend the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday night.

“Flo Rida was one of the all-time great post-race concerts in the history of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series,” said Scott Dickey, President of Competitor Group, organizer of the event. “Rock ‘n’ Roll brought the runners, but St. Pete delivered a fantastic experience at an incredible venue along the waterfront. To have a Grammy-nominated artist play to the crowd with such energy was unforgettable and his performance has certainly heightened anticipation of this event for years to come.”

The 2nd Rock ‘n’ Roll St. Pete Half Marathon is scheduled for Sunday, February 10, 2013.

Inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll St. Pete Half-Marathon
St. Petersburg, FL, Sunday, February 12, 2012

1) Paul Neilson, 26, Orlando, FL, 1:08:58, $1500
2) Davis McCollom, 32, Bridgeport, WV, 1:10:31, $500
3) Joshua Wakeman, 23, Tarpon Springs, FL, 1:12:53, $250

1) Jessica Crate, 26, Satellite Beach, FL, 1:19:05, $1500
2) Lyubov Denisov, 40, Russia, 1:20:35, $500
3) Loni Smith, 30, Lakeland, FL, 1:21:42, $250