Friday, January 13, 2012

Lawrence to keep state cross country meet

By Nancy Glasscock, The Decatur Daily
The high school state cross country championships will remain in Lawrence County for the next three years, race director Stanley Johnson said.
The Jesse Owens Runners Club received verbal notification Thursday that it would host the meet at Oakville Indian Mounds park, Johnson said.
The Alabama High School Athletic Association chose the park over Veterans Park in Birmingham because of organization and atmosphere at the park, Johnson said.
“There was just an overwhelming response from Scottsboro, Florence and even in Mobile during the committee meeting,” he said. “That says something when coaches and teams and parents are willing to drive from Mobile for the state meet.”
The race, held Nov. 10, will be the 11th high school state cross country championship held at the park.
The runners club must re-apply to host the race again after three years.
Johnson and others want to keep the race in Lawrence County because of the economic impact on Lawrence, Morgan and Cullman counties. More runners and their families stay in hotels in Cullman and Morgan counties than in Lawrence County because of the availability of rooms, and more revenue is generated by guests spending money at gas stations and restaurants in Lawrence County.
Tami Reist, president of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said 49 room nights were booked in the Decatur area during the weekend of the race in 2011, bringing the economic impact to $23,233. In 2010, 61 hotel room nights were booked, for an economic impact of $27,919.
“We have a soccer tournament that takes place that same weekend, so for that race, Decatur can’t take as much business in because of those other events,” Reist said.
Cullman County receives more hotel revenue from the event than Morgan and Lawrence, but Cullman doesn’t track bookings from the event.
About 1,200 to 1,500 runners participate in the races. To be considered by the AHSAA to host the race, Johnson said the runners club had to submit a plan dealing with issues such as safety, parking, the race course, personnel and volunteers. Cost to host the race is $21,000, which comes from sponsorships, the Chickasaw Trails and Jesse Owens Classic cross country races in September and October, and from fees that schools pay to participate.
Johnson said the running trail at Oakville Indian Mounds is “one of the best venues in the nation.”
“And how the staff works with us out there just makes it even better,” he said. “It really is a genuine team effort with Morgan and Lawrence counties and everyone involved.”

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