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South Valley Journal

Cross country 5A, 6A divisional race date changes; new venue set for state meet

Oct 04, 2021 11:29AM ● By Julie Slama

At one of the pre-state races in mid-September, junior and senior girls try out the new state course, located at the Salt Lake Regional Athletic Complex off of Rose Park Lane. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

When 5A and 6A cross country runners line up on the start line at Lakeside Park for the divisional meets, they will have the opportunity to have their full varsity teams.

In what is considered the qualifying meet for teams as well as individuals for the state competition, organizers had worked with coaches to determine a good meet date. For this year’s meet, it was voted on for Oct. 13—the same date as the statewide PSAT college entrance exam.

The PSAT date likely wasn’t communicated to coaches or put on school calendars, so organizers were not aware of the conflict, said Randy Quarez, 5A representative for track and cross country with the Utah High School Track Coaches Association.

“This has happened multiple times in my 24 years of coaching,” he said. “I used to have it happen with region cross country meets.”

Quarez said that the conflict also could be that coaches discussed the date more than one year in advance, so it could have been the testing dates weren’t yet released at that time to high school counselors.

Typically, high school sophomores and juniors take the PSAT standardized test administered by the College Board. The test measures readiness for college, serves as a practice test for college-entrance exams and is a determination for National Merit scholarships. 

Once learning about the conflict, Quarez quickly reached out to others in the Utah High School Track Coaches Association. After checking the park availability for the alternative date, Oct. 12, the meet date was changed so all student-athletes could participate.

“We were able to move it. If we can fix it, we’ll fix it. It would have been a struggle for kids to do that test,” he said.

The qualifying runners then will have more than two weeks to prepare for the state meet, which will be held on a new course this year.

The course, which many teams ran in the pre-state multi-day meet in mid-September, is at the Salt Lake Regional Athletic Complex, located off of Rose Park Lane.

Utah High School Activities Association Assistant Director Jon Oglesby said there were multiple reasons for moving the meet site after more than 40 years of holding the state cross country race at Sugar House Park. Last year, it was held on the Soldier Hollow course in Midway.

“Our state meet had outgrown Sugar House Park,” he said. 

Oglesby said the coaches’ association was contacted to determine the best place with a course that coaches like, meets the needs of the student-athletes and what was wanted and needed, such as ample parking.

“The Regional Athletic Complex in Salt Lake City just east of the airport was the perfect spot,” Oglesby said. “It actually has a really nice setup.”

He also said that “coaches more and more are wanting a flatter course that allows for fast times because that allows them to then compete and qualify into various postseason meets.”

With the change of venue comes an admission charge.

“That’s something that’s been talked about for quite a while. The expenses continue to rise every year and it’s hard for us to push forward with adding the other things that we want to add knowing that the expenses around even just hosting it are increasing,” he said. “Our coaches are really insistent on wanting chip timing where their splits are at the miles and on RunnerCard, it’s very easy to follow what’s going on. I think that’s a really wonderful thing for the kids, but there’s a cost associated with that.”

Timing isn’t the only cost. The venue, officiating, athletic trainers, awards, dumpsters, portable restrooms and water are some other costs that contributed to the change in charging admission, he said.

Oglesby said the coaches have supported the change to the new course.

“Our coaches are ecstatic about it,” he said. “I am hopeful that it will be a long-term venue for us.”