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NMJC Set to Host Cross Country National Championships

NMJC Set to Host Cross Country National Championships photo 10/31/2011 3:33:18 a.m. - Hobbs, NM. Although the 2011 NJCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Cross Country National Championship Meet is officially scheduled to last only a few hours, New Mexico Junior College, the hosting school, has been diligently preparing for it for well over a year.

The national meet, which will be held Saturday, November 12, at Ocotillo Park Golf Course in Hobbs, will bring about 750 of the top cross country athletes in the nation to Lea County.  Last year’s championship meet was held in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

The women’s 5K race is scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. Saturday, with the men’s 8K race to begin at 11:00 a.m. The awards ceremony will be held at 12:30 p.m.  Results will be posted at http://go-thunderbirds.com/crosscountry/nationalcrosscountrychampionships/.

As host, New Mexico Junior College is concerned with all the details. “We have to think of everything,” said President Steve McCleery, referring to the myriad essentials required to handle such a major event and the associated numbers of attendees.  With necessities such as parking, tents for officials, timing equipment, marking the course, food and lodging, flights, signage, and even port-a-potties for the event, NMJC has been working overtime to ensure that the event is successful in every aspect.  “We want this to be a gold standard, not only for New Mexico Junior College and the NJCAA, but also for the community of Hobbs,” said McCleery.  Lea County and the City of Hobbs have also partnered with NMJC in preparation for the meet.

Many of the details at NMJC fall to Kevin Waters, the college’s cross country coach, who has experience with national meets due to his background as head umpire of national indoor track and field championships at Texas A&M.  For the Nov. 12th meet, Waters will see that both the course and the event meet NJCAA standards, including such things as the installation of signs, distance markers, fences, and ropes. As possibly the single most important component of the event, he frequently walks the golf course just to envision the races since he is solely responsible for clearly marking the 5,000 meter course for the women’s race and the 8,000 meter course for the men’s. “You don’t want to confuse the runners. You want it to be easy for them to know where to turn,” he said. “You don’t want the coaches or athletes coming back and saying it wasn’t fair for any reason.”

In its own preparation for the meet, Ocotillo Park Golf Course has been taking care of details as well.  Runners have long utilized the attractive Course for cross country meets, but according to Doug Lyle, Ocotillo’s golf pro, this is by far the largest one that’s ever been held there. “We’ve never had anything with this many people,” he said. But Lyle isn’t concerned about the course being trampled, thanks to the fact that the course’s greens will all be roped off during the race, and runners will actually be competing on the edges of the course.  Since the course is so well maintained, Lyle added that only minimal adjustments had to be made to ready the course for the meet, including filling in a few “very minor” low places.  To accommodate the weekend golfers who will be displaced during the meet, Ocotillo is providing them with vouchers to play at the Hobbs Country Club.   

Along with the athletes will come coaches, family, friends, and other supporters, as well as a host of interested spectators.  As a result, hotels, motels, restaurants, and other service industry providers in Lea County and the surrounding region have been put on alert to expect a high volume of patrons during this time, with projections ranging anywhere from 3500 to 5000 additional people.

“We’re extremely honored to host this year’s championship meet, which promises to be a great event for NMJC, the City of Hobbs, Lea County, and the surrounding area,” said President McCleery, “and we genuinely hope that everyone has a positive experience during their time in Hobbs at this historic event.”

For more information about the national cross country meet or to volunteer to help, please contact Kevin Waters at 575.492.2743 or NMJC Athletic Director Don Worth at 575.492.2741.

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