South Charlotte

Mustangs running course back on track

When coach John Cline was a cross country runner at Myers Park, graduating in 1993, the school had its own 5K course for meets and practice. But in 1998, then cross country coach Richard Prince retired after 28 years, and the course stopped being used.

After more than 10 years without hosting a meet, the 5K course is back open.

Cross country parents, students, coaches and volunteers worked together over the last year to reopen the Myers Park cross country course and get it ready for its first meet last week.

"We've been wanting to have competitions on it and it was a matter of getting it ready and getting it scheduled," said Cline, 36, who has coached at Myers Park for eight years. "We're thrilled and look forward to hosting more competitions in the future."

The course was created in the early-1980s by Prince. It starts on Myers Park's football practice field on Colony Road, goes behind the baseball field and through the woods almost entirely around the school before ending back on the practice field.

Parents Scott Milligan and Jay Greene, along with coaches Cline and Lamont Hayes, spearheaded the rebuilding effort. They started in September 2010, spending many weekends clearing the course by hand, said Milligan, cutting back trees and bushes and getting rid of vines and poison ivy along the trail.

Some parts of the course had been washed away and had to be filled in. Several local companies donated equipment for bigger projects like building small land bridges. The project was a complete volunteer effort.

"The kids were a huge help. The parents were a big help," said Milligan, whose son, Will, was on the Myers Park team last year but transferred to the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics. "It was really a grassroots effort."

Myers Park originally scheduled a race for Sept. 22, but it was rained out. Greene, whose daughter, Meg, is a sophomore runner at Myers Park, said that gave them a few extra weeks to make sure the course was ready.

Greene said he hoped the course could also be used by local middle schools to promote cross country and staying healthy. He also has a son, Nick, who runs at Carmel Middle School.

The course is designed so that it can be shortened to a 3K course, the distance middle school and younger runners normally run.

Cline, Greene and Milligan said the course is one of the toughest in the state. It features many hills, including a steep descent followed by a steep climb that has earned the nickname "Death Valley."

McAlpine Greenway, which is used for many area races, is a pretty flat course, said Cline, so this gives runners a different challenge.

Providence High's Wyatt Maxey won the boys' race with a time of 17:24, but the Myers Park boys' team won the meet with Dakota Poindexter finishing second, Tucker Smith third, Jansen Coulter fourth and Jack Matkins fifth.

The Myers Park girls' team completed the sweep by taking first through seventh place in their race. Hannah Henderson won with a time of 21:26. Hough, Cuthbertson, Parkwood, Hopewell, Rocky River and East Mecklenburg also competed.

Hayes, who has coached cross country for eight years and spring track for 11 at Myers Park, said he hopes this is the first of many races at Myers Park.

"It's the end of a long process and the beginning of a tradition, we hope," he said.