Our Coaches


Meropi Richards – Orange Half Assistant Coach (Pace Group 12:30 – 14)

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Meropi will be joining our coaching team as an assistant coach for the orange half group. We are very excited to have her join the coaching family.  Her encouragement and support can get you through any run even when you’re having an off day. She’s always up for a start line selfie and has been known to run back and run into the finish line with a friend.  We are so happy to have Assistant Coach Meropi on board!!

Meropi’s running journey in her own words….

In 2013 I hit my highest weight of well over 300 lbs and I knew I needed to make some life changes. I started walking and I tried the gym, but I did not like the treadmill. I found that I would walk for a few mins and then I would stop. So I decided to walk outside. I did a half mile out and that of course meant I had to do that distance back so with that my running journey began! One mile out meant one mile back and so in 2014 I completed my first half marathon! I have completed 12 half marathons so far.  I love running and I hope to inspire others to come out and enjoy it as much as I do.

Jennifer Wade – Orange Half Head Coach (Pace Group 12:30 – 14)

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Coach Jennifer joins us this year for her first year coaching with USA Fit Tampa Bay and we can’t wait! We are thankful to have her on board and we are sure she’ll be an amazing addition to our coaches.
Jennifer’s running journey info her own words…..
I started running about 6 years ago when my friend asked me to join her Couch to 5k group…our goal race was the Gasparilla 5k. I had never ran before and could not believe what I was capable of after a few nights of training. After my first race I was hooked! We ran 8 races that year. Since then I have completed many 5ks a 15k and 4 half marathons. The running community is a great one. I have been so encouraged by fellow runners, met a lot of great friends and encouraged my friends and family to join me as well. I love helping others set goals and achieve them. I am very excited to be a part of the TBF team and look forward to meeting everyone.

Tonya Rivera – Orange Half Assistant Coach (Pace 12:30 – 14)

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Tonya joined the TBF family in 2010 and finished the season running her very first half marathon! Tonya began assistant coaching in 2012 and became head coach in 2015.  She returns to assistant coaching the most photogenic Orange group this year! Her encouraging,  compassionate nature gives all of those she coaches the confidence to do the things they never thought possible. We are lucky and grateful to welcome coach Tonya back again!

A little more about Tonya, in her own words…

I started coaching so that no runner would ever feel like they were too slow or not good enough.  I love watching someone complete their first half marathon knowing that I helped them get there.

I am the Florida VP of Sales and Marketing for Johnson and Johnson insurance.  I have been married 22 years and have 2 sons. With a little encouragement from me,  they have all run at least half marathon.

When I’m not working or coaching,  I run a nonprofit called Ready for Hire, lead a couples community group called Homebuilders , am the Servant Team Leader at my church, sell Mary Kay and I am a coordinator for Family Promise. As you can see,  I like to stay busy.

Jeremie Smith-Encio – Yellow Full Assistant Coach (Pace Group 9:30 – 11)

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Jeremie will be coaching at USA Fit Tampa Bay for the first time this year and we are excited to have him! Coach Jeremie’s enthusiasm is contagious and we know he will be a great add to the USA Fit Tampa Bay family.

In his own words…..This is my first year coaching with USA Fit Tampa Bay and I look forward to meeting each coach and member in the upcoming 2018-2019 season. I am looking forward to creating great memories and relationships. My goals this year are to be a positive and supportive resource for the coaching staff and help our members reach their personal goals whether it is crossing the finish line or setting a personal best.

Jeremie’s running journey….

Jeremie has completed an impressive 9 Half Marathons and 1 full marathon. He completed that marathon at Disney (2018) in 4:56 and fastest half marathon was in Jacksonville (2012) 1:41.

Jennifer Stephens – Red Full Coach (Pace Group 11-12:30 minute mile)

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Joining USA Fit Tamp Bay in 2017 as a member, Jennifer quickly became a part of this running community. This year we are lucky to have her join us again, but as our Red Full Coach. Her infectious energy and motivation makes her a perfect fit!

Jennifer’s running journey…

I started running in 2012 with a Couch 2 5k program because I needed a better way to deal with the stresses of life. After I crossed my first finish line, I was hooked! Since then I have completed races from 5ks to a marathon and pretty much every distance in between. I joined Tampa Bay Fit for the 2017 season after moving to St. Petersburg from Houston, Texas and met some great running friends and learned new running routes. I love running bridges, so getting to run here in the Tampa Bay area is a great fit for me! It is also great training for my upcoming San Francisco Marathon.  I remember how intimidating the marathon distance felt to me that first time and my goal as a coach is to instill confidence and knowledge to my training group and let them know that, even though it is a big goal, it is one that they can achieve.

In my non-running life, I am an American History professor for a community college, married to my best friend and favorite travel companion!

Misti Hons – Red Half Coach (Pace group 11-12:30 minute mile)

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Joining TBF in 2011 as a member, Misti Hons was quickly seen as an inspiration to others, making her a great fit as a TBF coach. She coached the Red Half group from 2012-2014 while continuing to inspire members with lofty goals she set for herself – like running 13 half marathons in 2013! After a few seasons off, Misti will be returning to coach the Red Half group and is looking forward to encouraging members to do things the never thought possible.

Misti’s running journey….

I started running in 2005 to relieve stress and haven’t stopped. At first it was just as far as I could, then the Susan G Komen 5k, the Turkey Trot 5k (in all cotton may I add, big mistake!), the Gasparilla 15k and I was off and running or called myself a runner. My training was ok, done mostly solo or with a former member of TBF who convinced me to join. Best decision ever!!! Not only have the training runs and seminars improved my running and knowledge of running… it’s the PEOPLE, the people make the difference! Long runs don’t seem so long, highs and lows are shared, commiserated and celebrated; I am happy to say this group has become my ‘running family’. Since joining TBF I have completed 29 half marathons (31 in total) and will be training with the group for the 2018 Tallahassee Target race.

Vikki Caradonna – Purple Coach (Pace Group – 14 + minute mile)

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Vikki joined TBF in 2014, and will be leading the Purple group with Coach Kurt.  Vikki’s inspiring journey to fitness, motivates all of those around her to follow in her footsteps, with the confidence that they too, can do what may have once seemed impossible.

Vikki’s experience in her own words:

I started running as an activity after I lost over 100 lbs back in 2011. Since then, I’ve completed 21 half marathons, and am working on #22 and #23 this season. My coaching goals this year are to be positive, provide motivation, inspiration and assistance to those seeking to complete their first or fiftieth half marathon. My personal goals are to improve my finish times at my goal races.

“Whether it’s a 16-minute mile or a 7-minute mile, it is still a mile.”

When you first start on your fitness/running journey, you may not be the fastest. You may even be the slowest. It does not make a difference – what matters is that you are taking that first step to challenge your limits and make lasting changes to your life and health. No matter your pace, we all have the same end goal and TBF can get you there.

Kurt Kuhlman – Purple Coach (Pace Group 14+ minute mile)

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You’ll find Kurt at every TBF run and event, with encouraging words, and a high 5, when you need it the most.  Those joining our walking purple group, will have the fortunate experience of learning from, and getting to know this great man and athlete.  We are happy to have Coach Kurt aboard!  Kurt’s fitness journey in his own words:

I’ve been doing multi-sport (triathlon) for about 11 years. I’ve also completed several half marathons and a full marathon. I’ve been with TBF for 7 years as a runner – this will be my first year as a coach. I was (gratefully) cajoled into TBF by one of my best friends who was also a former coach. My goal is to assist the runners in my group to achieve their goals – all (running) things are possible with TBF!

Jessica Baker – Organizer – Yellow Group Head Coach (Pace Group 9:30 – 11 minute mile)

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Jessica Baker joined TBF as a member in 2014, and her natural coaching ability was immediately apparent.  Her infectious smile, enthusiasm, and genuine concern and acceptance of others made her a must have addition to the TBF coaching family.  She will be coaching the Yellow Full & Half group for the 2018-19 season, as well as serving as co-director with Kristin Karnuth.

Jessica’s fitness journey in her own words…

I joined Tampa Bay Fit in 2014 to train for a full marathon. I started running in 2012 and could barely run 60 seconds without stopping. Using a couch to 5k app I was able to complete my first 5k that year at The Women’s Half Marathon in St. Pete.  I fell in love with running!  On New Year’s Eve 2013 I decided to set a goal of 13 races that year to include the Women’s HALF Marathon (I wanted the Half medal). I was able to reach my goal using the same couch to 5k training app. After completing my first half marathon I decided to train for a full marathon but couldn’t find an app for that. That is when I discovered Tampa Bay Fit. Thanks to Tampa Bay Fit’s training schedule and coaches I was able to complete my first full marathon, The Clearwater Marathon , at my goal time of 4:20 (4:22 actually, but close enough). I have now completed 8 full marathons. I am currently training for New York City Marathon this fall.

Matt – Green Group Head Coach (Pace Group 8 – 9:30 minute mile)

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Matt joined Tampa Bay Fit in 2004, having never done any distance running. He wasn’t terribly good. Then things clicked, and he hasn’t looked back. As of June 2018, he will have run 51 marathons in 43 states, plus bunches of half marathons. If all goes well, he will be at 46 states when the season starts….. He’s well on his way to running a marathon in all 50 states before he turns 50.  He has run Boston, and his best time is 3:16, which he somehow ran at the Mercedes Marathon in Birmingham. Matt helps coach TBF runners because he enjoys helping runners meet their goals and learn how to finish races happy. He’s willing to work with anyone who wants to get better. Whether you’re blazing fast or more of a plodder, you can enjoy distance runs and finish them with a smile on your face!

Matt has had the good fortune of running all over the country, and he is continuously reminded that the St. Pete waterfront is one of the most beautiful places to run.  He can’t wait for our next season to start.

When running, Matt tries to forget that he is an attorney.  He and his wife live downtown.