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Unicorn Classic field nears 800

Runners from Arizona, Michigan, Massachusetts and Hawaii have registered for Saturday's Unicorn Classic 5K road race, which has been designated the Road Runners Club of America's Southern Regional Championship.

More than 800 men, women and children are expected to participate, race director Pete Pfannerstill said.

The event is being hosted by the West Florida Y Runners Club.

With some uncertainty about whether last year's winners _ Raymond Friedman of Tampa and Kim Bruce of St. Petersburg _ will compete, Pfannerstill sees the early favorites as Said Diri of Morocco, who has run in the 14-minute range, and Russian marathon runner Tatyana Maslova, a winter resident of Gainesville who has run 5 kilometers in the 16-minute range.

Keith Batten of Clearwater, winner of the recent Strawberry Classic, is expected to be in the hunt, as is Tom Adamich of South Pasadena (10th at Gasparilla) and Mike Ferreira of St. Petersburg.

In the women's field, Judy Maguire of Clearwater and Laure Blume of Pinellas Park should contend for a top-three award, somewhat lucrative this year.

Sponsored in part by the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, the race offers $2,200 in prize money, with $250, $150 and $100 going to the top three. There's also prize money for the top three finishers in the 40-and-over and 50-and-over divisions.

"We'll have a large number of senior runners, including 85-year-old Ray Hoover of Largo, and lots of kids for our Unikids Fun Runs of 100 to 800 yards, which should get underway around 9 a.m.," Pfannerstill said.

Among younger runners, Melissa Kotchman of Seminole should challenge for a top-10 finish. She won the women's division at Sunday's Friendship Trail Bridge Run 5K in 19:20. Kotchman is a seventh-grader at Indian Rocks Christian School and a member of the Times 2000 All-Suncoast cross country first team.

Registered runners receive T-shirts and free tickets to the annual Bay Area Renaissance Festival, which begins after the race, and the pizza party/award ceremony.

The race covers two loops on a flat, certified course from Largo Central Park, located on the southeast corner of East Bay Drive and Seminole Boulevard.

UNICORN CLASSIC 5K

WHAT: Unicorn Classic 5K and Southern Region Championship

WHEN: Saturday, 8 a.m.

WHERE: Largo Central Park

THE SKINNY: Race-day registration begins at 6:45 a.m. and the cost is $18. Prize money will be awarded to the top three men's and women's finishers in addition to awards for the top five finishers in each age group. The Unikids Fun Runs begins at 9 a.m. Contact Pete Pfannerstill at 393-9987 for information.

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