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10K race a victim of theft

Race officials and police will be on the lookout for extra competitors when the annual Strawberry Classic 10K takes to the road Saturday in Plant City.

A vehicle holding about 250 race T-shirts, $1,200 worth of registration fees and race packets (including placement numbers and event merchandise) was stolen from an Ybor City Square parking lot around 2 p.m. Saturday, police said.

The 1993 Jeep Cherokee, owned by Strawberry Classic race director Darrell Gordon, was recovered early Monday morning at the corner of 24th Street and 10th Avenue in Tampa, but the race money and materials had been removed.

"This is really very disturbing," Gordon said. "It was broad daylight when the Jeep was stolen. But the race will still go on. We have already ordered a new set of race packets and T-shirts, and we will honor the original ones."

The Strawberry Classic, in its 13th year, features a 10K road race and a 5K cross-country run at HCC Campus-Mike Sansone Park in Plant City. The race, which has 350 confirmed runners, offers $7,000 in prize money, plus random cash drawings for middle-of-the-pack runners. According to Gordon, 50 percent of the profits were to go to the Plant City Boys and Girls Club.

"All the people who signed up on Saturday (the day of the Gasparilla races) will run for free," Gordon said. "We gave them packets, numbers and shirts, and they will be allowed to run. But there will also be race-day registration.

"We'll try to do things much the same way, but the amount of money donated to the club will be dramatically reduced."