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Mercon going for record 6th straight Midnight Run title

Monday night's Kiwanis Mease Midnight Run in Dunedin will feature Judy Mercon going for an unprecedented sixth consecutive win.

The defending men's champion, Ray Wunderlich of Treasure Island, has been grounded by an Achilles' tendon injury and is not expected to defend the title he won in 1993 and 1994.

Mercon, 36, has been on a roll since last December when she last lost to a bay area runner. On that occasion, Barbara Moore of Tampa beat her by 5 seconds at the Hidden River 5K. Subsequently, Mercon finished first among Florida women at the Gasparilla Classic in February and first American at the Los Angeles Marathon in March.

While the July 23 World Veterans Championships Marathon in Buffalo, N.Y., looms as the No. 1 priority on Mercon's race list, she has designs on winning the Midnight Run again early Tuesday.

"I'm looking forward to it," said Mercon, who holds the course record of 36:23 from 1990. "It would be nice to keep winning it. I'm tapering for it somewhat, but my legs are feeling the brunt of accumulated mileage. Last Sunday at Saint Leo I ran 20 miles with the Forerunners and I'm still recovering from the hills.

"What appeals to me about the Midnight Run is that it's different. I like running through the park (Honeymoon Island) with the lanterns and the silhouettes of other runners. In addition, a lot of my Dianetics teammates do it, and the 10K distance fits into my marathon training."

Mercon, an Olympic Trials Marathon qualifier with a best time of 2:46:35, has a goal of finishing first among U.S. women at Buffalo.

"I really don't know who's going to be there," she said. "If the weather is favorable and it's not too hilly, I hope to break 2:45 for the first time."

Midnight notes: Registrations for the 16th annual event along the Dunedin Causeway are running nearly 100 ahead of last year, reports race registrar Joe Garrison. Last year the combined 10K and 3K events drew 998.

Application forms are available at the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce on Main Street, or the Dunedin Library on Douglas Avenue. Pre-registered runners and walkers are eligible for a drawing of 12 special prizes ranging from hotel stays to dinner certificates for two. On-site registration begins at 10 p.m. Monday at Causeway Plaza, Alternate 19 and State Road 586. Call 535-2257 with questions.

Ron Murawsky of Clearwater, a qualifier for the 1995 Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii, is entered in the 10K event. In the masters division for runners 40 and over, he'll be pitted against Joe Daly of Palm Harbor, Borys Stopnytsky of Dunedin, and Peter Scott of Clearwater. Scott's wife Janis will duel with Faye Adler of Palm Harbor for women's masters honors.

Beach Series: At Pass-a-Grille last Friday night, Murawsky finished third in the 5-miler behind Jeff Ehlert (27:33) and Walt Sieg. Karol Chambers finished fifth overall (29:43), a 1:09 improvement over her 5-mile time from the previous beach race. In the process, she beat veterans Steve Mikles and Jim Spencer, who were second and third in the 40-44 age division. Tina Pontoni of Sarasota placed second among women and Amy McClenathan of Treasure Island was third.

Lee Fictum (16:44) won the 3-mile event, with Conni Walker (21:01) taking women's honors. A field of 279 ran in the two events.

Summer Sunset Series: At Taylor Park in Largo, Jeff Delie of Clearwater took the lead at the halfway point of the 5K and went on to win in a personal-record 16:04 over Mark Lenker (16:39) of Temple Terrace. Terry Fluke of St. Petersburg was third. In the women's race, Mercon won in 17:24 over Shannon Robbins (19:22), who barely outkicked Amy McClenathan by 2 seconds. Robbins, the newest member of the Sunshine Running Team, ran for Auburn for four years and then worked in France. She's set for the Midnight Run 3K.

Elsewhere: Jim Duncan of the Forerunners won the Beat the Heat 3-miler at Thonotosassa on June 17, clocking 17:04. Teresa Vaill, a winter resident of Brooksville, won the 10K race walk in 45:01 at the U.S. Track and Field Championships in Sacramento two weeks ago to earn a place on the U.S. team at the World Championships in Sweden beginning Aug. 5. Former Seminole resident Mary Level-Menton qualified for the Olympic Trials Marathon with a time of 2:48:48 at the Toronto Marathon last month.

Down the road: To compete for the July 10 lottery drawing for a 1996 Boston Marathon entry form, send a self-addressed, $.55 stamped, No. 10-size envelope to: Boston Marathon, P.O. Box 1996, Hopkinton, MA 01748. Other drawings for those who don't qualify through the times system will be held on Oct. 10 and Jan. 10, 1996.

A lottery entry form must be filled out and submitted immediately to be considered for the lottery.

The field will be limited to 25,000 for the 100th running of the classic, with lottery winners rounding out the field.

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