The 40th Melon Run featured one of the more surprising finishes in recent memory, with former Buchholz High School runner Calum McFetridge breaking the sub-16-minute mark.
The race, held annually on Independence Day at Albert “Ray” Massey Westside Park, is a professionally certified three-mile race hosted by the Florida Track Club, and the contingent of the club made up a sizable portion of the 440 runners who participated in the 2018 iteration of the event.
McFetridge, a 19-year-old student at the University of Florida looking to eventually get involved with the Gators track and field program, finished Wednesday’s event in first place overall with a time of 15:50, while a familiar figure among runners in the area, Bobby Hensley, 34, completed the run in 16:01 to finish in second place. Cade Monk, 17, placed third with a mark of 16:29.
“I’ve just been running with the team Florida Track Club to stay competitive,” McFetridge said. “The course was really good actually. It felt short. There was one big uphill at the beginning and one at the end, but the rest felt like it was all downhill.”
A Gainesville native, McFetridge said his familiarity with the area helped “a little bit” with his race preparation. And the overcast conditions didn’t hurt, giving runners a reprieve from the beating sun and suffocating humidity that have typically welcomed those looking to start the holiday with a patriotic competition.
As he looks to make his way to Florida’s program, McFetridge’s next opportunity to leave a strong impression as a distance runner will come Sept. 23 at the Mark Bostick Golf Course where the Gators host their lone cross country meet of the 2018 season — the Mountain Dew Invitational.
“I’m building up to 70, 80 miles a week,” McFetridge said.
As a member of the FTC, McFetridge is no stranger to the talents of Betsy Suda, the first woman to finish Wednesday when she crossed the finish line with a time of 18:02.
Suda, 36, has been the executive director of FTC since 2016 after previously serving as the club’s outreach coordinator. After running for a Division III program in Boston, Emmanuel College, Suda relocated to Gainesville in 2010 to earn her Master’s Degree in Science in Organic Chemistry from UF.
“When I moved down here I sought them out,” Suda said of FTC, “because I knew a lot about their history and their brand.”
Now a familiar face at the event, Suda said she has competed in the Melon Run since her arrival in Gainesville except for in 2013 and 2016.
“Previous years I think it was a little short,” Suda said, “so you’ll notice the times are a little slower this year. So, we added a little bit up on 16th avenue, so it adds another really hard hill at the beginning. It takes the sting out of your legs.”
The three-mile race, which preceded a kids’ fun run, provided runners and attendees with refreshments and watermelon.
Complete results can be found at www.start2finishracemanagement.com.