Familiarity with a specific cross-country course doesn’t ensure lowered times.
This is especially true with the layout at Franklin Community High School, which on Saturday morning hosts girls and boys sectionals for a sixth consecutive season.
“It’s definitely not a favorite course for anyone,” said Center Grove senior Val Clark, who won individual honors there last weekend when the Grizzly Cubs hosted the Johnson County girls and boys meets.
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“By the time I graduate, I will have run there 11 or 12 times. For me, it’s more mental than anything else because it’s a two-lap course. That makes it more difficult than a one-lap course. You finish one lap and you just want to be done.”
Located on acreage east of the high school, the 5K course didn’t make its debut until the 2010 cross-country season — or three years after the new high school opened.
This gave the grass enough time to grow so that footing was not an issue for the athletes, according to Steve Ahaus, who coached both Grizzly Cubs programs for 10 seasons (2002-11) and is now principal at Franklin Middle School.
Ahaus and parents of some of his runners at that time helped design the look, feel and various challenges of the course.
The intent, he said, wasn’t to make the course as difficult as possible.
“It was designed to use the terrain that was available. We felt that’s the nature of cross-country,” Ahaus said. “But when the course is wet, it’s definitely not fast just because you have hills and turns.”
Runners start each race on 200 meters of flat surface before giving way to a multitude of subtle inclines and declines. A small portion of each girls and boys race is conducted in a wooded area.
“The one thing not really noticeable to the average spectator is that there aren’t a lot of flat areas. You’re going up or down almost the entire time,” Franklin girls coach Ray Lane said. “There’s no one hill that really gets you.
“It’s an accumulation of all the ups and downs that get you. It’s difficult to run your best time there.”
Clark will be among the first to vouch for that.
Her first-place time of 20:05.65 at the county meet four days ago is a far cry from her personal best of 18:50 at the 2014 Metropolitan Interscholastic Meet hosted by Ben Davis.
Next week’s regional at Shelbyville also features a course known for fast times.
To qualify for the regional, though, local runners must first be challenged by an on-campus cross-country course that in the past seven years is responsible for making as many enemies as friends.
“Most coaches enjoy us hosting meets. It’s a really nice course and it’s a cross-country-specific course, and not a lot of courses are like that,” Grizzly Cubs boys coach Adam Schwartz said. “It’s a rolling course that is slightly tougher than it appears.”
Franklin cross country sectional
When: Saturday, 10:30 a.m.
Where: Franklin Community High School
Teams: Center Grove, Eminence, Franklin, Greenwood, Greenwood Christian Academy, Monrovia, Mooresville, Perry Meridian, Shelbyville, Southport, Waldron, Whiteland.
Admission: $5 per person
Advancement: Top five teams and top 10 individuals from non‐advancing teams advance to the Shelbyville Regional on October 15.