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Top women vie today in Pear run

Two former Pear Blossom Run women's champions are expected to duel for the title in today's 24th edition of the race.

Deanna O'Neil, 35, a six-time women's champion from Portland, hasn't won the race since 1997, when she concluded a string of six straight victories.

She says a hamstring injury will hurt her chances today.

But Cheryl Tronson of Bend, the 1998 champion, isn't buying O'Neil's sentiments.

I think Deanna is the favorite to win, says Tronson. If her hamstring was that bad, she wouldn't be entered and running.

When she gets out there, she'll be going for the win. She doesn't run for second place. I know that.

The Pear Blossom's 10-mile main event starts at 8:45 a.m. at Medford City Hall.

Other races and scheduled start times will be the 2-mile walk-run at 7:25 a.m., wheelchair 10-miler at 8:35 a.m. and the 5-kilometer run at 8:50 a.m.

O'Neil says the Pear Blossom is one of her favorite runs.

I'm running to be part of the festivities, she says. I'm not thinking about winning. I haven't run 10 miles for a while, but I'm looking at this as a chance to have fun.

My hamstring has been a long, discouraging injury. I'd like to run a time of around — hour.

O'Neil set the women's course record in 1995 with a time of 57:07.

Tronson set the 40-44 age-group record of 1:00:43 in '98.

Tronson, 42, says she feels good as the race nears.

At my age, I don't count on getting wins, she says. But I'm feeling good. I'd like to at least place in the top 10, but if I'm feeling good, I'm sure I'll want to go for the win.

Meanwhile, four generations of the Oscar Grossaint family of Bonanza will be on the starting line today for the Mayor's Cup 1-mile run-walk event, which starts at 8:05 a.m.

Grossaint, 79, will lead the way.

We're all walking together, says Grossaint. I'm looking forward to being with my two great granddaughters (Karissa and Sierra Lawler, ages 4 and 5, respectively).

I might have to carry them a little bit. But that would be fun. It's going to be enjoyable to be out there as a family. I doubt if we will do any running. It'll be mainly walking.

Cindy Allen, 50, Grossaint's oldest child, came up with the idea of the family entering the Pear Blossom.

The good thing is we get to spend an evening together anticipating the race and enjoying each other, says Allen. My dad (Grossaint) and I were walking in the mall in Klamath Falls a few months ago, and I told him we should all go over to Medford and do the Pear Blossom Run.

Grossaint says he walks almost every day.

I had arthritis in my leg, and that helped me walk it off, he says. I can walk without pain now.

I don't try to beat anybody in the mall. Most of the women outwalk me. But that's all right. I live in my memories.

Another member of the family scheduled for the Mayor's Cup is Cindy Allen's daughter, Angie Lawler, 26, of Klamath Falls, who represents the third generation and is the mother Karissa and Sierra.

Not involved in the Pear will be the family's best runner. Karie Allen, 20, a distance runner for Oregon Institute of Technology's women's track team, will be running for the Owls in a meet today at Southern Oregon University.

We're going to go watch Karie run after we're finished with the race here, says Grossaint. Karie got us all interested in running because she's good.

One day, I said, `We can do this, too.' We don't need to just stand here and watch Karie run. It's a lot of fun to get out there. All of us are in pretty good condition and we're fast walkers. That mile will go fast, but it will be fun, especially with the sun out.