Monday, September 28, 2009

Lost on the Quail Trail

Pebble Hill Plantation opened its gates on Saturday morning, 26 September 2009, and welcomed runners to the Quail Trail 5K and the Thomasville Invitational cross-country meet. When the morning was over Steven Cox had won the Quail Trail in 22:01 while Nancy Stedman won the women's division in 24:38. In the high school races, Maclay's Jana Stolting opened her season by winning the girls' race with an 18:43, finishing over a quarter mile ahead of the runner-up, Stefanie Kurgatt. The title in the boys' race went to David Daniel, a Thomasville High senior who ran 17:39 to finish 10 seconds ahead of his nearest challenger, Maclay's Austin Stevens.

You may have noticed the somewhat unusual winning times for the Quail Trail. If they seem a bit slow for a 5K, well, they are. Very early in the race the runners were led astray and everyone ended up running 6-1/3 kilometers, or some other odd distance. Estimates vary, but all opinions agreed that the course as run was farther than 5K. This started with the reluctance of Pebble Hill's management to allow their beautiful grounds to be defaced with chalked course markings. So for the Quail Trail 5K, the only markings were a few inadequate signs here and there, about the size of a sheet of typing paper and hand lettered. There was a lead vehicle, but the driver didn't know the course. There seemed to be course workers at every intersection, but somehow the field missed a turn anyway.

Apparently everyone ran the same route, though, and it wasn't a PR course anyway. Plus, everyone got to see some beautiful plantation land (although I doubt anyone was paying much attention to scenery after the third mile).

After the last of the Quail Trail runners had been shooed off the plantation roads, it was time for the high school cross-country program of the Thomasville Invitational. The high school runners seemed to have better success at staying on the course. Possibly their course was marked better, or their lead vehicle was driven by someone who actually knew where to go. Or perhaps their coaches had bullied them into going over the course before the race. That's always a good idea.

The girls' race was the opening contest of the season for Maclay's Jana Stolting, who had missed her team's first two competitions. Stolting cruised into the lead early and stayed there. The top three places went to Maclay, as Stolting was trailed in by teammates Stefanie Kurgatt (20:18) and Shelby Salimone (21:10). Sweeping the top three places certainly didn't hurt Maclay in the team standings, and the Marauders defeated runners-up Lee County High School 34 to 89. Lee County ended up just two points ahead of third-place team, Bainbridge.

Similarly to Stolting, Thomasville High's David Daniel took an early lead in the boys' race. Daniel--the 2008 Georgia Region 1-2A champion--never built the kind of lead that Stolting enjoyed, but still crossed the line well ahead of Maclay's Austin Stevens and Maclay's Patrick Swain (18:21). Nevertheless, Maclay won the team crown, outscoring runner-up Bainbridge 40 to 64.

In spite of the snafus, it might still be worth going back to the Quail Trail next year. The setting is beautiful, the high school competition is great, and there might still be some folks lost out there that we need to look for.



  1. Good description -- great venue but some initial growing pains. Would do it again, but wish they didn't have it the same weekend as the pre.

  2. Thanks! Your phrase "growing pains" is spot on. It's always a crap shoot as to what you're going to find at a first year event, so I'm prepared to be forgiving.

    It's a pity, too, about the scheduling conflict with the Prefontaine 5K. I know that with only 52 weekends in the calendar there is going to be some overlap, but I always hate it when it's two good races.

  3. Herb,
    I can understand not wanting to paint up the venue.
    Had no one introduced them to a bucket of pinflags and some Martha White flour?
    Tallahassee Trails

  4. John,

    I just don't know. There are so many good ways of temporarily marking a course, you'd think they'd have stumbled on something acceptable. And for the Invitational races, they did think of stretching a length of surveyor's ribbon on the ground for a starting line. Maybe they had only seen well-run events and had no experience of how many things could go wrong.