Battle of the Potomac: Creating a Cross-Country Race for High Schoolers

Fri, 10 July 2009 - 1:11 p.m. MT
Credit: ARA Staff - American Running Association

Click Here to go to the BattleXC website.

Scheming, creating and producing a cross country race for high school runners.

It started with the American Running Association's (ARA) push for youth fitness: getting more young boys and girls running. Cross Country was a great team sport and was deemed a great tool. Three years ago, ARA committed to raising awareness and developing programs for youth involving running and walking-running.

Creating and funding the BattleXC.

On the sponsor side, top leadership from Nike backed our youth fitness efforts and gave American Running the funds required to promote and produce a new cross country event. Youth Runner magazine and website joined into a partnership that resulted in a new event website and an event program.

Event Model

The model for the "Battle of the Potomac" was based on Nike's highly successful BORDER CLASH (WA vs. OR). We wanted a name based on regional history and physical features. The two states are divided by a river and the Civil War had its heart in both states. Thus, the name BATTLE OF THE POTOMAC and its tagline, XC BORDER WAR was born. Four races were scheduled: two elite 5K championship races and two Open races. The participants for the two elite 5Ks were ultimately selected based on the finishes at the VA and MD state championship meets. We also attended top private school championship meets and issued several invitations to outstanding private school runners.

Site and course.

Thanks to event co-chairs Bruce Gross and Hal Danoff and two honorary coaches in Mike Mangan (Lake Braddock HS) and Seann Pelkey (Quince Orchard) we zeroed in on one site, Smokey Glen Farm in Gaithersburg, MD. Smokey Glen had the terrain and the ability to do onsite fresh food for attendees. The owners agreed and the site was secured for the mid-November XC showdown. Mike Magan, ARA Director Dave Watt and the co-chairs Hal and Bruce met to shape a double loop 5K course. Once they looked out on the rolling hills and the position of the picnic buildings, the race organizers decided to have a start and finish right in front of the food eating area. The loop course ended up as the preferred 2.5K distance. Runners would run it twice with finish near the original start area with a 5K to

Tapping runners for the elite race.

The process to sell, convince, or lure an excellent girl or boy XC runner was evolutionary. Since the Battle of the Potomac was new to MD and VA high school cross country, we had to continually show up at weekend meets and show our wears; namely hand out free t-shirts to teams and runners. We contacted coaches, handed out tees and placed notices on running websites.

State Meet Weekend--Invitation Day.

Our plan was set----invite the top 5-20 finishers (depending on A, AA, AAA and 4A in MD), to run for free in the elite race at the Battle of the Potomac. During the awards ceremony at the Virginia XC State Meet, we handed out rolled up XC Border tees with an invitation. Same held true at Hereford MD at the Maryland State Meet.

Race Production.

We tapped a local running club for volunteers offering a free barbecue dinner and tee in return. A Board Member of the medical division of ARA was tapped to provide timing and scoring------Mark Courtney and his production team at Runners’ High brought its Champion Chip timing system for the Battle XC event. Nike brought in its Cross Country promotional truck. A sound system was contracted and the course was re-measured and marked with 600 flags. Another Board member served as medical coordinator onsite.

Runner amenities

One was the free Nike Singlet to all elite race participants and the first 100 OPEN competitors. The main ingredient was the free barbecue chicken dinner to all participating elite runners. As race day approached, we included all the registered runners for the free dinner. We also promised medals to the top 15 finishers in each race.

Race Day.

The meet schedule was adjusted to the final number of registered runners and the expected number of walkup race day competitors. It was determined to combine the OPEN race into two combined starts. The number of entrants was not equal for both teams, so we opted to have a single start line. The girls’ race went first followed by the Open boys. Most entrants were varsity runners who ran as #6 or #7 in the season and top JV runners. The key races of the day came last, the girls and boys elite competition pitting VA vs. MD.

Future XC events.

ARA is looking to add an early season race in Virginia that will serve up a new taste of cross country to regional high school and middle school runners. For now, enjoy XC BORDER WAR 2 and the new battle for cross country supremacy in Virginia and Maryland.

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