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By Susan Chiappone

chautauqua correspondent

SILVER CREEK – The 17th Annual Laurel Run in Silver Creek may be a sanctioned speed race for some runners, but for others it is a chance to honor their former track coach and have a reunion.

The race will be held next Saturday in Silver Creek. Registration starts early in the morning as both runners and walkers participate in the hilly village course. Proceeds from the race are used to promote programs in the community for persons with disabilities. The Resource Center, a well-known provider of services in the disability field, is the main sponsor.

Wayne Hotelling founded the race to promote awareness of programs for people with disabilities. A former track coach and high school social studies teacher in Silver Creek, Hotelling named the race for his daughter, Laurel, who has Down syndrome. It started with Hotelling running across New York State and quickly evolved into an 8K running race and 5K walking race.

Laurel turned 50 this year, and her father has announced that he would love to see 500 people register for the race in honor of his daughter’s landmark birthday.

Mike Matesevac, a graduate of the class of 1989, will return for the event. He lives in Atlanta and said he plans his family vacation around the Laurel Run. This year, he expects to be joined by several runners who were coached by Hotelling during the championship years in the 1980s.

Matesevac said Hotelling was the kind of coach who encouraged everyone to work to their potential. He said the runners formed a bond. During his senior year the track team was undefeated in Chautauqua County.

After the group decided to run to honor Hotelling, they came up with the name “The Rusty Knights.” The Silver Creek High School team was called “The Black Knights.”

Paul Crino, a 1986 Silver Creek alumus, was a senior when Matesevac and other members of the “Rusty Knights” were running track in Silver Creek. Crino, who still lives in Silver Creek, said he looks forward to the event for the reunion with his former teammates. “Mr. Hotelling was a great track coach,” said Crino. “He really made you want to perform. … As a coach, he always had something to say to make you smile even when his workouts were really tough.”

Another group of alumni calls itself “The Creeky Knights.”

To register for the race online and for more information, visit laurel-run.com.