BRADENTON -- The Canes Classic 5K serves as the unofficial kickoff to the fall season for the area's high school cross country runners.
But adults stole the show Monday morning in the 20th anniversary of the race.
Former Manatee High runner Josh Sanchez broke his year-old record to win the men's race for the fourth straight year, and 40-year-old triathlete Rachel Chambers rolled to victory in the women's race.
Sanchez, a 22-year-old recent University of Florida graduate, finished in 15:49.3, one second better than the record he set last year. He beat the field by more than a minute.
"I didn't feel as good today," said Sanchez, who is living in Bradenton until leaving for chiropractic school in Daytona Beach later this month. "Last year, I went out faster because I felt better. Today, my form felt sloppy. I've been weightlifting. I'll have to cut that back."
But Sanchez was pleased
he beat last year's time.
"I just pushed myself. I got around the corner and saw it said 15:40, so I went hard for the record," he said.
The 20th Canes Classic was run in warm, but not muggy, conditions at a sunny G.T. Bray park. A total of 283 runners took part in the 5K and 1K runs, about double the number who ran in the first event in 1993.
The race serves as the chief fund raiser for the Manatee High cross country team, just as it did 20 years ago when then-head coach Tom Orehowsky started it.
"We thought after the first year that it would be an annual event, and the running community would embrace it. It's a good chance for the adult runnings to mix it up with the high school runners," said Orehowsky, who still serves as the race organizer.
Chambers, a Sarasota resident, finished in 19:32 and outran Lakewood Ranch seniors Kristin Zarrella (19:49), the 2008 women's champion, and Natalie Novak (19:53) to the finish line. Classmate Olivia Ortiz, who won the 2011 race in 18:49.27, missed this year's event as she rehabilitates from the broken leg she suffered during the state track and field meet.
Because she recently turned 40, Chambers was considered a Masters runner. She broke the seven-year-old Canes Classic Masters record (19:43) held by Bethany Haslem.
Chambers said she used Monday's run as speed training for the International Triathlon Union Duathlon World Championships. She will represent the United States in the event Sept. 22-23 in Nancy, France. The duathlon features a 10-kilometer run, a 40-kilometer bicycle ride and a 5-kilometer run.
"It's really important to have a fast run so you can draft with the top cyclists," Chambers said.
A former Bradenton resident, Chambers said she hadn't run the Canes Classic in about 15 years because she is usually competing in a triathlon or 100-mile bike ride on Labor Day Weekend.
"It's good to run with these high school girls," said Chambers, a registered dietitian/nutritionist at Venice Regional Medical Center. "I loved the atmosphere. It reminded me of my high school days. I love this race."
Chambers said she felt particularly strong Monday because she took a single day off from training for the world championships.
"That's sad, isn't it?" she said.
Also Monday, Richard Quevillon added a Veteran Grand Masters record to go with the Senior Grand Masters record he already owns.