Amazing Ani: 12 Year Old Veltcheva Goes 17:44 At Matanzas 5K, UF Alum Parrish Wins Mens Race

(Photos by Lara Drondoski)

Ani Veltcheva isn't even a teenager yet. The 12 year old from Abraham Lincoln Middle School in Gainesville has been beating competition twice her age for several years now and continued the trend this weekend at the Matanzas 5K.

On New Years Day, Veltcheva kicked off her 2017 season by placing third at the Frank Shorter one mile run in 5:23. Team Florida Track Club coach Enoch Nadler says that meet was more about having fun  before the real work took place.

"Since then she has resumed training with our group and we're building her up for some fast races later this spring. Coming into today's race Ani and I didn't put much pressure on this race, but we felt like 17:45 was about where she was at. This would be about a 25 second PR or so, but based on the training she has been doing it seemed realistic."

The 2016 FLYRA Middle School Cross Country Championship winner conquered the Matanzas 5K course, which was mainly roads, in an amazing 17:44, the fourth fastest female regardless of age, and 24th fastest runner in the field of nearly 1,000 runners. To put her time in perspective that would be about a 15:53 for an experience woman twice her age. Nadler says anytime Ani lines up to race she brings her "A" game and he knew she would go out and compete hard.

"I was really happy that she met the goal we had set for this race and I know this is just the first race in a long spring season (in length, not number of races). Ani won't really race that much over the next month or so."

The pair will stick to low key 5K's and keep working on reaching Veltcheva's goal of sub 17:30 before she turns 13 in April. Nadler adds that she will have her whole high school career to race on the track so they aren't too focused on doing a ton of races in the spring.

"She plans to qualify for the state meet and compete for a state title, but other than that nothing is laid out yet. Ani is still very young so we just try to keep it fun and exciting!"

On the men's side, UF alum Mark Parrish, who holds several school records for the Gators, won the race in 14:37, 30 seconds faster than runner-up Trent Lusignan. 2008 Olympic triathlete Jarrod Shoemaker was 4th in 15:34. Parrish will be one of the many talented entries at the Gate River Run 15K in Jacksonville on March 11th.

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