Sarasota Fireball Runners Among Best This Year



The 2,000-mile Fireball Run ended this weekend, and two Sarasota teams working closely together finished in the top 10. Along the way, teams dealt with some game drama, vehicle trouble and personal tragedy, but hope the event ultimately raises awareness of the cause central to the run, finding missing children. 

Sarasota philanthropist Ariane Dart, who won last year’s run with racing partner Tracy Leichtenburger, came in second place this year, but was also dealing with significant complications at the start of the race. Leichtenburger’s father passed away just as the race was getting started, so for five days on the run, Anna Nekoranac served as her co-pilot. Nekoranac was racing with her husband Bengt Niebuhr on Team Firefly, the team racing to represent Forty Carrots Family Center in the race. Dart and Nekoranac both serve on the Forty Carrots board of trustees, and a system was developed to allow the two to ride together in the first five days of the race while earning points for both teams. “I was extremely fortunate that my friend Anna offered to step in,” Dart said. “She and I were a phenomenal team and were in first place for six days.”

After Leichtenburger returned, Nekoranac finished the last two days of the run with Team Firefly and ultimately finished in seventh place, an impressive finish from a team with both members racing for their first time. “Both Ariana and my husband are really good drivers. That was one advantage we had,” Nekoranac said. “But I had also done tremendous background research.” As part of the race, teams stop in several cities each day to participate in puzzles and challenges, something that was key to winning, Nekoranac said. The race was also demanding because there were optional puzzles available through the day, which were truly mandatory for any team hoping to finish with a top score.

The winning team was ultimately the Central Florida-based Team M.I.B., but three other Sarasota-connected teams also raced. Team Bronco finished in 22nd, Hope and Glory in 25th and Team Honey Buns in 41st. A total 44 teams competed this year. 

Film crews followed the race, and footage will be edited into episodes that will stream on Netflix next year.

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