Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 was a cross-country season to remember at Apalachee Regional Park

2016 is history. So is the 2016 cross-country season. There are a number of very good places to run cross-country in Tallahassee, but the Apalachee Regional Park course is exceptional--not only in town, but nationally. The starting line is spacious enough to handle hundreds of runners, the trail is at least ten meters wide everywhere, and the course boasts a fiber optic network for video coverage.


2016 was the eighth season for the course, and the busiest yet. From October to December there were events on twelve different days at ARPXC. During those twelve days 57 races were run, ranging from one kilometer up to ten kilometers. More than 6,000 athletes competed in those races, running almost 20,000 miles.

Wes Blake, Gabriel Jager-Sumner
Leon County Schools' Middle School Championships on 5 October 2016

Apalachee Regional Park piled up those numbers during the fall in spite of a late start. Racing was scheduled to begin in September, but then Hurricane Hermine struck Tallahassee. Remember how your neighbor’s yard looked? ARPXC took some damage as well. The Big Bend Invitational and the Swift Creek Middle School Invitational were canceled.


Leon County Parks and Recreation cleaned up the course, though, and by the time of the Florida State University Invitational in October, you couldn’t tell that ARPXC had been through a storm. Unfortunately, this was the weekend that Hurricane Matthew was threatening Florida’s east coast. Many of the athletes that were scheduled to race at the FSU Invitational were hunkered down for the storm instead. That made the meet smaller, but it didn’t make it slower. Chiles High junior Michael Phillips opened Saturday morning racing at the Invitational by winning the boys’ 5K, establishing himself as a favorite in class 3A. Half an hour later, Lincoln frosh Alyson Churchill had done the same in the girls’ 5K.

Girls' Elite 5K
FSU Invitational Girls' Elite 5K, 8 October 2016

The Trash Dash 5K on Oct. 29 closed that month of racing at Apalachee Regional Park. Militsa Mircheva, headlined the race, winning in 17:54. Mircheva ran the women's Olympic marathon for Bulgaria earlier this year; in the spring she'll be running track for FSU's Lady Seminoles.


On Nov. 4 the Florida College System Activities Association held its first women’s cross-country championship at Apalachee Regional Park. Where else? Tallahassee Community College’s first-ever cross-country team placed third in that inaugural meet.

Pasco-Hernando State Conquistadors cross-country team
Pasco-Hernando State, 2016 FCSAA champions

The next day the high schools were back at ARPXC, competing in the FHSAA State Final. Alyson Churchill won the second race of the morning, the class 3A girls’ 5K, becoming the 2016 state champion in that division. Churchill joined Lincoln alumna Kathy Ward as one of only two athletes from the school to win a state cross-country title. Michael Phillips won the class 3A boys’ title less than an hour later, the second boy in Chiles High history to achieve that honor.

FHSAA 3A Girls' Cross Country Championship
Class 3A Girls' 5K, 2016 FHSAA State Final

On Nov. 6 Apalachee Regional Park was the venue for the USATF Masters 5K Cross-Country National Championship. It was the first national championship in cross-country held in Tallahassee since 1991, but it was only the first of three at ARPXC this year.


Florida State hosted the NCAA Division 1 South Regional at Apalachee Regional Park on Nov. 11. The USATF Region 4 Junior Olympic Championships were held on the course on Nov. 19. The Junior Olympic meet was preceded that morning by the FACA High School Senior All-Star Classic. Haleigh Martin of Wakulla, Molly McCann of Maclay, and Josh Liles of Lincoln competed in high school cross-country for the final time in that meet.

2016 NCAA-D1 South Region women's 6K
Women's 6K, 2016 NCAA-D1 South Region

The AAU National Championships came to the course on Dec. 3, bringing nearly a thousand runners. The USATF Club Nationals were on Dec. 10. Florida State alumna Colleen Quigley won the women’s 6K in 19:31, doing the Seminole chop on the homestretch. Samuel Chelanga took the men’s 10K in 28:55, not only the course record, but the fastest 10K ever run in Tallahassee. The Mike Long Track record in 29:06.56, and no one has ever cracked 30:00 on the city’s roads.


Gulf Winds Track Club’s Tannenbaum Trail 6K on Dec. 17 closed the curtain on 2016 racing at Apalachee Regional Park. Dressed in black, Massachusetts marathoner Josh Andrews won the race in 20:30, then vanished before the awards presentations. Apparently never tired of racing at APRXC, Alyson Churchill took the women's title in 22:33.

Josh Andrews
2016 Tannenbaum Trail 6K

The excitement of the cross-country season is gone, but the Apalachee Regional Park course is still there--a pleasant place to enjoy a run or a walk with a friend or a dog. If you miss the hundreds of racers and their fans, be assured that they’ll be back in fall 2017. There’s always another cross-country season.


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Herb...

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