MIAMI BEACH -- Former Miami Sunset High School runner Jorge Grajales and Ecuadorian Angela Brito Bravo were the runaway winners in the 8th annual Tropical 5K run on Miami Beach Saturday morning.
Neither runner was challenged in the point-to-point race, which got underway on Watson Island 25 minutes after sunrise on a cool 62-degree morning. The 2,532 runners crossed the McArthur Causeway, passed a half-dozen gleaming cruise ships that were docked at the Port of Miami, and headed south on South Beach to the finish line near the legendary Joe's Stone Crab.
Grajales, a 21-year-old Florida International University student, won his fourth career 5K race in 16:16. Fausto Bolano, 33, of Ecuador was second in 16:49 with Leonardo Martinez, 37, third in 16:58.
Brito, the eighth overall finisher, finished in 18:10 with Sweden's Christina Greis, 37, second in 20:46 and Elizabeth Schepis, 46, third in 21:11.
"It was a slow start," said Grajales. "It was tough getting through the crowd, but I found an opening. Coming up to the first mile I started catching up to the only runner in front of me (Bolano). I passed him about 2K into the race and that was pretty much it."
Bolano, who is in Miami for Sunday's ING Miami Marathon and was using the Tropical 5K as a warm-up race, stayed focused on the big picture.
"All my work is focused on the marathon," said Bolano. "I saw he (Grajales) was going at a faster pace, but I was running my own race so I'd be ready for tomorrow."
Grajales had a different agenda.
"I came here with the mindset that I wanted to win," said Grajales, who ran on FIU's cross country team as a freshman before suffering a fractured foot that temporarily ended his career before he decided to make a comeback. "When I got the lead I never looked back. My high school coach told me to never look back. You have to stay focused."
Brito Bravo also used the race as a warm-up for Sunday's marathon. The mother of two daughters was one of the top women finishers in last year's marathon, winning her age group (25-29) and finishing eighth overall.
"I came last year, and the organization was amazing here," Brito Bravo said. "So I wanted to run this race. I came into it keeping in mind that I had the full marathon tomorrow. The bridge was a little difficult, but the rest felt easy and smooth. The scenery was beautiful and I really liked it a lot."
Sunday's ING Miami Marathon and Half Marathon gets underway at 6:15 am on Biscayne Boulevard at American Airlines Arena.
Tropical 5K - January 26, 2012
OVERALL MALE RESULTS: Jorge Grajales 16:16; FaustoBolano 16:49; Leonardo Martinez 16:58
OVERALL FEMALE RESULTS: Angela Brito Bravo 18:10; Christina Greis 20:46; Elizabeth Schepis 21: 11