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Tailgate Tales

Updated: Aug 28


Awards for the 2022 Tailgate 2-Miler show the spirit of the fun, football-themed event that kicked off on Aug. 14 at The Avenue Viera. KEITH SNODGRASS photo.

In less time than it takes most people to roll out of bed, brush their teeth and hit the commode, the top 10 runners at the August 14 Tailgate 2-Miler had already finished the football-themed race and begun cooling down.


Titusville’s David McCollam, 43, bombed through the Avenue Viera finish line in ten minutes and 14 seconds, taking the overall victory and leading New Wave Racing to the overall team victory. Fellow New Wave athlete, Ryan Degregorio, 26 and from Melbourne, grabbed second place in 10:26. Palm Bay's Zeke Zauner, 29, took third in 10:33, leading the Power of Pizza Charities team to second place.


Titusville’s David McCollam, 43, bombed through the Avenue Viera finish line in ten minutes and 14 seconds, taking the overall victory and leading New Wave Racing to the overall team victory. KEITH SNODGRASS photo.

With this being the second race of the Run Brevard Series, it appears that the battle for this season’s Team top podium spot will again be fierce between the New Wave and Power of Pizza teams.


New Wave dominated last year's Series and it looks like not much has changed this season.


At Sunday’s race, six of the top ten finishers were racing for New Wave, including Master’s winner, Steve Hedgespeth (7th) and overall female champion, Jennifer Absher (9th).


Six of the top ten finishers at the Tailgate 2-Miler are part of the New Wave racing team. Some of the team members who stuck around for photos include (kneeling) Jen Absher, 35, Melbourne, Top female, 9th OA. Left to right: Tom Stokes, 73, Melbourne, 2nd 70-74, Rebekah Ash, 24, Melbourne, 2nd female OA; Deb Stokes, 66, Melbourne, 2nd 65-69; David McCollam, 43, Titusville, OA Race Champ; John Binion, 24, Melbourne, 1st 20-24, 4th OA; Steve Hedgespeth, 44, Melbourne, Male Masters Champ, 7th OA and Mike Taylor, 40, Melbourne. KEITH SNODGRASS photo.

Absher took the women’s victory in 11:47, followed by fellow Melbourne resident and New Wave teammate, Rebekah Ash, in 12:24. Melbourne Beaches Tara Perrin, 43, took third in 12:39.


Absher’s 5:54 per mile pace was no joke considering she had raced the hot, brick-laden Track Shack’s Celebration of Running 5K course in Orlando the day before, winning her age group and finishing fifth female overall with a 6:05 pace.


“The conditions were much better today,” said the Mel Beach Hilton bartender (don’t forget to tip) and strength coach who is studying to take the Physical Therapy Assistant licensing exam on Oct. 4. “Today’s race began 45 minutes earlier and the road was smooth.”


Zippy the Gecko congrats Jennifer Absher after she took the overall female victory at the Tailgate 2-Miler on August 14 at the Avenue Viera. KEITH SNODGRASS photo.

Absher is competing in both the Run Brevard and Track Shack Series events for a piece of the cash prize purse each offers and to help her get back into prime running shape to race the California International Marathon (Sacramento) on Dec. 4, a point-to-point, net downhill course known to help produce fast times.


“I picked that one because I have family out there and the race is the 2022 USAFT (USA Track & Field) Marathon Road Championships,” she said.


Absher has some potent potential.


After running for just a few years, she tackled her first marathon – Celebration – in 2018. She finished third OA female and qualified for Boston in 3:11:22.


One year later, she finished the iconic and challenging Beantown course in 2:58:54, a personal best by more than 12 minutes.


A joyful Absher crosses the finish line of the 2019 Boston Marathon in two hours, fifty-eight minutes and 54 seconds. It was only Absher's second marathon and a PR by more than 12 minutes. (This poor guy in front doesn't look as jubilant!) Photo courtesy Jen Absher.

Absher owes a large part of that PR to strength training.


“Having more strength allowed me to tolerate the increase in distance and intensity,” she said.


Although Absher had earned a BS in Psychology from UCF, her increased passion for racing and strength training set her on a new career path.


“I decided I didn’t want a job where I sat all day,” she said. “I was training with Kaitlin (Donner) and became really interested in helping people in another way.”


She went back to school two years ago to earn her Associates in Physical Therapy Assistant and graduated this past spring.


While balancing school and clinical rotations with a full-time job, Absher had to back off on some of her training but with school now behind her and a new career ahead, her expectations are high.


“I hope to only improve from here.”


Complete Tailgate 2-Miler results and race photos by Keith Snodgrass.