E.A. Sports Today

Plotting their own course

White Plains opens diverse cross country course with first home meet in school history

The new White Plains cross country course traverses through woods, over creeks and has nearly 120 feet of elevation change.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

It’s not as irritating now, but every once in a while John Moore reaches over to scratch a bug bite and he smiles. It reminds him of all the work he put in this summer carving out a course with the potential to be one of the state’s best.

Moore, the White Plains cross country coach, spent his entire summer designing the on-campus course the Wildcats will debut Thursday in the first home meet in their program’s history.

The 3.1026-mile course, built around the White Plains Middle School campus and Youth Sports Complex, is set for a 5:30 p.m. ribbon-cutting right before 15 boys and girls teams take the first competitive strides on a course Moore says proudly “is rivaled only by Jesse Owens (Park),” the venue for the state championship meet.

“Worked all summer on this sucker with some very fun fathers and businessmen who helped me out,” Moore said. “Over 300 man-hours went into it (with) bulldozers, skidsteers, bobcats and dozens of rakes and shovels. After 10 ticks, seven yellow jacket stings and 14 million mosquito bites, it is ready to run.”

Interesting he cited the Owens course in Moulton because that was his inspiration.

The Wildcats have a one-mile trail at the high school they use for training, but they have to loop around it several times for a complete workout and Moore admits “that’s not much fun.” Moore mapped out a course near the middle school where he coaches PE and Michael Weathington and Charles Givens, a local contractor and former high school runner, embraced his vision and ran with it.

The Wildcat Trail starts and ends at the Youth Complex, runs past the middle and elementary schools, winds through the nearby woods, over Shoal Creek and features a strategically placed bottleneck and more than 100 feet in elevation changes. It emerges from the forest with about 400 meters to go for a downhill finish.

“I could’ve made this totally flat, but to me that’s boring, and my kids don’t like it, either,” Moore said. “It’s got it’s own character.”

Teams from Saks and Alexandria already have run the course and found it interesting and challenging. Early estimates indicate the course to be about a minute slower than the flat and fast Oxford Lake course where the Calhoun County Meet is held.

“Abby (Nunnelly) said if felt like a mix of Oxford Lake and St. Clair County,” Alexandria coach Phillip Hartsfield said. “I told John the other day that just four years ago we didn’t have this. We had to go to Cullman or Birmingham to get races. Now, we have a good course just down the road.

“I think in a couple years it could be a good County (Meet) course. It needs a little traffic first. And it would be a great one to run just before sectionals and state.”

All those meets are already in Moore’s mind.

“Of course I want this to be county,” he said. “I’m not trying to steal it (but) I didn’t make a course all summer long to have it just run by me. I want it to be (for the) county, sectional. I’m not trying to take away from Jesse Owens, but I’d take the state if they want to have it here. This is a great venue for county.”

Actually, Thursday’s race could be considered an early-season County Meet preview. Every county team except Oxford and Ohatchee are registered to compete, and that’s only because those two are competing in the Yellow Jackets’ Waffle House Invitational at Oxford Lake Saturday. White Plains, Sacred Heart, Jacksonville and Anniston are also running there.

It wasn’t Moore’s intention to make his race a county preview or take away from the Waffle House, the traditional county season-opener, but he had always wanted to run an event on the first allowable day of the season. Local teams just embraced the opportunity to run close to home.

“I thought that would be so cool (to run the first day), but I’d have to go somewhere far away and check out of school,” Moore said. “So, I figured we could have one here.”

The twilight field could grow this week as several teams may be searching for a race after the Montevallo Early Bird Twilight was canceled because its lighting vendor was asked to send lights to the Houston area to help Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

Moore also has an event planned for his course late in the season as well. The Wildcat Fall Classic is Oct. 21 — five days before the Calhoun County Meet — where the field will run the course in the opposite direction. Ten schools already have registered.

Thursday, 6 p.m. Wildcat Trail, White Plains
REGISTERED TEAMS (through Tuesday): Alexandria, Anniston, Asbury, Clay Central, Donoho, Faith Christian, Helena, Jacksonville, Lyman Hall, Munford, Pleasant Valley, Sacred Heart, Saks, West Morgan, White Plains.

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