SEASIDE - The Hood to Coast Relay is poised to return to Seaside in 2003, race officials said Tuesday.

"We do have plans next year to finish in Seaside," said Linda Stirling, spokeswoman for the event organizers. The relay's Web site on Tuesday listed Aug. 22-23 as the probable date for a finish in Seaside.

The event founder, Bob Foote, typically meets with city and county officials in late summer or early fall to respond to concerns and seek formal permits for the event.

The relay, a 195-mile course from Mount Hood to the North Coast tackled by 12-member teams, is accompanied by the Portland to Coast Walk and Portland to Coast High School Challenge. Described as the largest relay in North America, the events combined to garner approximately 17,000 participants and crowds approaching 90,000 people in Seaside last month.

Local concerns about impacts from the massive scope of the event several years ago prompted organizers to agree to cap participation levels. The main relay is limited to 1,000 teams, for example.

Although traffic congestion, noise and other concerns resurfaced this year, especially along county roads, city officials said finish events ran relatively smoothly. Race organizers were "very satisfied" as well, and maintain a sense from city officials that on the whole the event is still welcome, Stirling said.

Whether the finish line location or relay course will change in the future, "there's always a possibility, nothing ever is carved in stone," Stirling said.

"A finish location or route change could be discussed if officials in hosting locations no longer welcomed the relay, but at this point, "we're not focusing on a change."

In early years the race concluded in Pacific City, but for most of its 21 years, it has finished in Seaside.

This year was the hardest ever for seeding the Hood to Coast relay teams, according to race officials. Many participants had to be shuttled to the finish line because they were not quite fast enough to meet the requirement to be in Seaside by nightfall on the second day, 9 p.m.

Previously the organizers have not been strict with a requirement of a team average running time of 9-1/2 minutes or less per mile, but organizers are emphasizing that requirement for 2003 registrants on the Internet site (www.hoodtocoast .com).

"Our aim is not to be exclusive but to meet the criteria we are dealing with," in terms of event start and stop times, the organizers added. "Please take this seriously as you sign up your teams."

Opening date for registration is Oct. 23; entries postmarked before that date are returned, and walk-in registration is not allowed. Interest remains strong, organizers added.

"From the response we've been getting we can tell you're all anxious to make sure you're going to get registered for our 22nd year," they noted. As it has the last two years, "we expect Hood to Coast to fill on opening day."