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Published October 20 2011

Runners, coaches take crash course on new North Dakota state cross country track

Fargo - Bismarck boys cross country co-head coach Dave Zittleman isn’t worried about the view for spectators at the state meet. He wants a racing surface that is fair to all runners.

Fargo Davies girls coach Lisa Svaleson prefers a challenging course with changing terrain.

And fans want to be able to see all of the action.

The site of this year’s North Dakota Class A and Class B state high school cross country meets was designed to meet all of those needs.

Created by Fargo North coaches Gary Mailloux and Rod Hardie, the race course at Rose Creek Golf Course blends fan-friendly sightlines with wide, runner-friendly turns and a few hills to make things challenging.

“The focus is on the kids,” Mailloux said. “But we have been at some courses that have not been very fan-friendly. My concern is the consistency of the surface that the kids deal with. I want to make sure that there are no real surprises for them.”

The state meet is scheduled to begin at noon Saturday with the Class A girls race. Class A boys are at 12:30 p.m., Class B girls 2 p.m. and Class B boys 2:45. The girls run 4 kilometers, and the boys 5 kilometers in high school cross country.

Hoping to give all runners a chance at the start, Mailloux secured permission to open each race at Rose Creek’s driving range. The large space should allow the competitors of each race to blast unimpeded off the starting line. Each team will get a two-meter width of space at the start, Mailloux said.

The Class B girls race has 228 participants, Class B boys 190, Class A girls 171 and Class A boys 162.

Fans should get plenty of opportunities to watch the action as the race moves west from the starting line. Competitors will do finger loops around the course. Spectators can bounce from fairway to fairway to follow their favorite runner.

“I think it’s always exciting to run on a new course,” Svaleson said. “You definitely pay attention when you are doing your warm-ups and walkthrough to find the proper place to push during the race.”

Mailloux’s biggest concern is at the finish, where excited spectators can sometimes limit a runner’s ability to view the line when they crowd in tight.

He’s hoping to alleviate the problem with clearly marked painted lines.

Zittleman said North Dakota’s cross country coaches are still looking for a premiere venue for the state meet. The perfect fit has yet to be found, he said.

Mailloux’s Rose Creek course could provide the state with another solid option for the sport’s premiere event.

“It’s nice to have the state meet in Fargo,” Zittleman said. “There haven’t been a lot of state (cross country) meets there. We have good courses, but we haven’t found a great course. It’s good to have a new place to take a look at.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562.

Hotzler’s blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com