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Avon to feature top female runners

A lot will be on the line Saturday on the South Florida campus at the Avon 10-kilometer road race, the seventh all-women's event in a national series of eight:

Prize money, starting at $500, goes to the first three finishers and the top 40-and-over finisher.

An all-expenses paid trip for the winner to next month's Avon national championship in Phoenix.

The prestige of winning a big all-women's event against the best of the bay area and beyond.

An opportunity for novices to participate in a supportive environment.

Clearwater's Judy Maguire, last year's winner in 36 minutes, 45 seconds, and Liane Rae of Belleair, who beat Maguire by 12 seconds at September's Race For The Cure 5K in St. Petersburg, are the favorites.

Maguire earned the trip to Phoenix last year, improving to 36:15 for second place in the Masters division. In March, she crafted a winning time of 36:44 at the Armadillo 10K in Oldsmar and beat Rae at the Midnight Run 10K in July.

"I was probably in better shape last November, but I'll be ready," Maguire, 42, said.

"Let's see how the race unfolds. Maybe I'll let Liane lead for a while this time."

Rae, 28, won last month's Disney 10K in 37:09 and expects to better 37 minutes Saturday.

"I've increased my weekly mileage from the 40s range to 60 to 65, been doing track workouts, and I'm healthy," she said.

"I have some apprehension about running in an all-women's field for the first time. I've never led alone.

"But it's great for Avon to be doing this series and getting women of all abilities started. That's what this sport needs."

Others who might vie for a top three finish include Kim Bruce of Bradenton Beach, Laure Blume of Pinellas Park, who finished third last year in 37:32, and Jacki Waller of St. Petersburg, a June graduate of Ohio University where she had a best of 35:45 on the track. Waller has been focusing on endurance training for the Dec. 2 Hops Marathon, her first.

Katherine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, is the director of the international series and will be at the 10 a.m. awards ceremony.

After the 10K event from the Sun Dome, which begins at 8 a.m., there's a 5K run/walk at 8:30 and kids dashes at 9:40.

In all, more than 800 runners and walkers are expected, said Beth Doyle, the event's media director.

"We want to encourage all levels to participate, including beginners," Doyle said. "The emphasis is on health."

For late registration information, call event director Gail Hardy of the Tampa Bay Runners at (813) 936-6289 or (813) 987-2729.