By D.E. Wheeler

Daily Journal

With three weeks left before the 20th running of Mississippi's largest road race, the Gum Tree 10K, some elite names are starting to commit to coming to Tupelo.

Gum Tree race director Johnny Dye reports that two of the recent entries are likely to be among those competing to cross the finish line first. Gum Tree's 1994 champion Sean Wade and Muchapiwz Mazano of Zimbabwe, who has a 10K personal record of 27 minutes, 29 seconds, are already two early favorites who recently committed to run in Tupelo on May 11.

"It's still early, but we've also had several calls from other folks requesting invited status," said Dye, indicating there should be more than just Wade and Mazano competing for the championship. "The stuff is in the mail, and things should start popping next week."

Just like most of the Gum Tree participants, Dye says that most of the elite runners do not commit to the Gum Tree until April. "And we will get commitments until the day of the race," he said.

On the recent commitments, Dye reports that Wade has run a 28:02 within the last year and will compete in the Atlanta Olympics in the marathon for the New Zealand Olympic team. Wade's winning time in 1994 was 29:51.

Running out of Florida now, Mazano is only 23 years old. His best 10K time in the last year was 29:12.

Mail-in and walk-in registration is also progressing. As of noon Thursday, race officials at the Bank of Mississippi, the Gum Tree's sponsor since 1979, reported that the entry total was at 425, which is almost exactly the total as of this time last year.

"We'll get a good indication of about how the registration will go around the cutoff time for early registration," said Dye, referring to May 1 when the entry fee goes from $12 to $15.

One little incentive that the Gum Tree is offering for walk-in registration is painters hats. Each person who registers at One Mississippi Plaza receives a Gum Tree painters hat.

Other notable entrants: In the men's open there is Drew Prisner, running out of Monroe, La., with a PR of 31:00.

In the men's Masters, there is Dave Kannewurf of Portsmith, Va., with a recent 10K time of 31:03. Also, there is Paul Stemmer of Mobile, Ala., with a recent 10K time of 32:14.

In the men's Grand Masters, Northeast Mississippi's Jerry McGath has entered, with a recent 10K time of 35:33.

In the women's open, 1990 winner Lisa Presedo of Baton Rouge, La., has committed. She turned in a recent 10K time of 33:21, but Dye feels she has run a faster time since.

Her 1990 winning time was 34:16.

Also, Keri (Ange) Gilroy from Lake Charles, La., has run a recent 10K time of 35:50. And Sarah Kramer of Ft. Walton Beach, Fla., has run a recent 10K time of 35:35.

In the women's Masters, New Zealand native Judith Hine, the 1994 Masters winner has entered. Running out of Marietta, Ga., she has a recent 10K time of 36:46.

Other Gum Tree note: With the course changes announced last week, certification of the new course is in process. And with the feedback Dye has received, it is possible that the second mile detour will become a permanent part of the course.

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