This fall the Lawrence County Fairgrounds will be hosting different types of races than they are accustomed to. The Slippery Rock University cross country teams will be utilizing this space for future events as their new home course.
“We’re kind of excited, spent a lot of time this summer,” SRU cross county head coach John Papa said. “[We] made a few new trails in the woods, built a bridge back there and so it was a lot of work, a lot of time, and lot of energy. The people at the fairgrounds are excited to have us, so it’ll be pretty good.”
The Rock will host the Bill Lennox Invitational on Oct. 6 at the fairgrounds where not only Rock athletes will be participating, but elementary and high school kids will be set to race that day as well, Papa elaborated. The tentative schedule for the day will be elementary kids in the morning starting at 9:00 a.m. then it will work their way to the college athletes set to race at 12:30 p.m. for the women and 1:15 p.m. for the men.
Getting the course to Coach Papa’s liking took a little bit of time and help from the people at the fairgrounds as well as the student-athletes involved, Papa stated.
“Just to start from scratch, it just took a while to figure out what might work best for a course, a lot of trial and error, wheeling things out, looking around,” Papa said. “I imagine as time goes on we’ll make a few other changes.”
The Green and White used to use Cooper’s Lake and Campground as their home course prior to moving to Lawrence County, and Coach Papa mentioned the biggest difference between the two venues was that Cooper’s Lake had more hills than the new course, which ultimately would change runners’ times compared to other courses.
Lawrence County Fairgrounds sits in the highlands directly across from Laurel High School, so there is very little change in elevation for the runners during their races so times will be faster, Papa commented. The Rock has yet to try the course out for themselves, but that will change on Wednesday next week when the team goes up there to practice, Papa said.
“I think they’re going to like it,” Papa remarked. “Because about half of the course is in the woods in the shade and the athletes like being in the woods because it’s cooler and it’s just fun; its refreshing.”
During construction, there were a few specifications that needed to be met for the course to be properly fit for collegiate races, such as no turns in the course until after the first 300 meters, Papa said. In addition to this, the width of the trail needed to be set at four meters wide so runners can pass one another.
Having a home course is something The Rock can be excited about because not every school has their own course they can call home, and knowing the course and how it plays out can be an advantage, Papa exclaimed.
“It’s a sport where a home course advantage is really an advantage,” Papa explained. “Not all schools have a home course. We’re fortunate to have a home course and its definitely going to be in our favor.”