By Gene Phelps

Daily Journal

Those of you competing in today’s 20th annual Bank of Mississippi Gum Tree 10K Run in Tupelo should be aware of two things.

One, the weather. A National Weather Service office spokesman in Memphis said a cold front moving through the area will likely produce rain for the run’s 8:30 a.m. start. He says temperatures should be in the 70s at race time and the humidity will be around 70 percent.

The weather conditions could affect the number of entrants who sign up this morning. In recent years, race day registration has averaged 250 to 350.

“We’ll just have to wait and see,” Gum Tree race director Johnny Dye said. “A lot of folks will come out if it’s bright and sunny, but if it’s overcast and drizzling, they usually don’t.”

Gum Tree officials are hoping to top the 2,000 mark for the 14th consecutive year. Last year’s total of 2,078 was the smallest since the race topped the 2,000 entry mark in 1983.

Two, runners need to be aware of the course changes. Because of road construction on West Jackson, the run will turn off Park onto Blair just past the one-mile mark. The course then turns from Blair onto Clayton, then crosses West Jackson and then turns left onto Woodlawn, before turning right on Joyner.

“It’s about a three-quarter mile detour,” Dye said.

Dye expects the course change to become permanent because it frees up West Jackson, a busy street, quickly.

Runners should watch for unlevel spots in the construction areas around West Jackson and Clayton. They will be clearly marked.

For those watching from the sidewalk and cheering on the runners, there have been a few changes made in the race’s lineup since the seeds were announced earlier this week.

Sean Wade of Houston, Texas, the 1993 Gum Tree winner, remains the No. 1 seed, but his field of challengers has increased. Julius Randich of Kenya, a late entry wearing No. 16, Muchapiwa Mazano of Zimbabwe, wearing No. 2, and a group of Mexican runners who entered Thursday are expected to challenge Wade.

“Dr. Jesus Zambrano of El Paso sent me a fax and said he is bring 10 Mexican runners eight male and two female,” Dye said.

One of those Mexican runners is 1993 Gum Tree female open champion Lourdes Lopez. She’ll challenge top-seeded Lisa Presedo of Baton Rouge, La., No. 2 seed Susan Molloy of Slidell, La., and No. 3 seed Christine Cote of Hamilton, Ontario. Molloy won the Coca-Cola 10K last week in Corinth.

In the male masters division, Paul Stemmer of Mobile, Ala., and Dave Kannewurf of Portsmouth, Va., are the favorites. Defending champion Wilson Waigwa pulled out Wednesday.

Defending male grandmasters champion, Tom Dooley of Toccoa, Ga., is the favorite in the 50-plus division.

In the female masters, 1994 Gum Tree winner and four-time second-place finisher Judith Hine of Minneapolis is the favorite.

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