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First Coast Cup: Former area high school track stars claim top local honors at River Run

Joining us today is the 2021 First Coast Cup winner Sem Sultanov

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Sem Sultanov was a bit disappointed when he heard the news.

He wasn’t going to be in the elite field for the Gate River Run. The former Mandarin High and UNF runner made the best of it, winning the annual First Coast Cup, the award given out annually to the top local finishers in the event. Sultanov finished in 47 minutes, 59 seconds. That put him 34th overall in the men’s field.

Another well-known area name was the top finisher for the women’s First Coast Cup, former Fletcher High running star Kayley DeLay. DeLay finished in 52:57, followed by Mandy Yates of St. Johns in 53:07.

“In my mind, you know, I just wanted to kind of race. After, you know, knowing that I wasn’t going to be in the elite field, I kind of just wanted to, you know, see bodies and pass them at the end and I kind of, you know, think I did that,” Sultanov said.

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“Throughout the race I passed a lot of the guys, you know, that started the elite race. So, it’s more of a more of just kind of proving that you know, I definitely should have, you know, been with the top guys and I think I’ll be there next year.”

Sultanov said his mother, 1996 Olympian Firaya Sultanova, gave him so advice for the event.

“She said that, you know, in the beginning, don’t go crazy, the bridge will definitely get to you, you know, if you go out too hard in the beginning,” Sultanov said. “And then that last bridge even if, you know, your body’s telling you to, you know, give up, definitely don’t do that. Once you get on top that bridge it’s all downhill from there, you know. Then you’ll be feeling good, so just keep your head up, you know, and don’t give up.”

PHOTOS: Did we spot you at the 2021 Gate River Run?

Chris McCaffrey, the First Coast Cup winner in 2019 and runner-up to Sultanov, said the challenge of the Hart Bridge in the windy conditions on Saturday was brutal.

“In all honesty, it was a huge task. I definitely feel that most of the 15K was raced in the last 2 kilometers of this race,” McCaffrey said. “And you really had to dig deep and kind of go to your happy place.”

Local women’s runner Kelsey Beckmann, who finished in 53:49 and was behind DeLay and Yates in the local women’s elite field, said it was nice to be back in the field for the national championship event. Former

“I’m really excited... I think having the Gate River Run and then just having such a great field out here, I was just really hungry to come back, because I hadn’t raced since 2017 here,” she said.

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.