Once again, a field of nationally-ranked teams gathers for a great weekend of competition at WakeMed Soccer Park.
Great Outdoor Provision Co. Presents the BONUS Featured Meet of Week 7:
Great American Cross Country Festival
Hosted by National Scholastic Athletics Foundation at WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary
(Schedule, teams attending, other info)
Begun in 2000 as part of the NSAF's mission of funding travel and competition for junior-age athletes, the Great American Cross Country Festival immediately made a national impact (its first champions were Mountain View from Utah and Saratoga Springs from New York). The meet itself is well-traveled, having been in the Charlotte area from 2000-2002, then in Cary at what was then called SAS Soccer Park from 2003 - 2005. The meet relocated again, this time to Hoover, AL, staying there for 3 years before returning to Cary for the last 4 years. Over 20,000 athletes have competed in the various races at this event in its 11 years of existence, and the Race of Champions always features a load of nationally-ranked squads. Teams from all over the Southeast (with North Carolina having the largest number) can compete against a sprinkling of schools from around the country. If you count the companion meet, the American Independent Schools Challenge (created to provide races for private schools that were excluded due to sanctioning rules in New York and other states), this is one of the largest and most competitive events in the nation.
(Via the NSAF website)
Recent Meet Records
(Based on the MileSplit database, dating to 2004)
American Independent Schools Challenge
(Companion meet for private schools excluded by the sanctioning rules in some states)
When Great American returned to Cary, the course was significantly different than in the early years of the meet. The original course finished inside the main soccer stadium, and that one was followed by a layout that featured a downhill finish. When the current configuration was debuted, it had the initial effect of slowing down the times there, due to the double uphill (including the one that leads directly to the finish), The course is considered a bit slower than McAlpine, but interestingly the common runners in both the Providence Invitational and the adidas XC Challenge actually ran slightly faster at WakeMed (of course, that could be due to better fitness after 3 weeks of training, or cooler conditions). WakeMed is hillier than you would expect for a layout that produces such fast times; not only do the runners come up the long hill twice (including once leading right to the finish, when legs are really burning), but there are some hills in the woods after the 1.5-mile mark. The course is excellent for spectators, but also allows the runners some quieter moments on the back side in which to concentrate on their race.
Comparison of WakeMed to McAlpine
(Using 2012 Providence Invitational and 2012 adidas XC Challenge)
From Durham, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and northwest NC: via Google Maps
From Charlotte and central SC: via Google Maps
From Fayetteville and eastern SC: via Google Maps
From Rocky Mount and northeastern NC: via Google Maps
From Wilmington and the Myrtle Beach area: via Google Maps
Things to Do Outdoors in the Raleigh Area
Raleigh is referred to by some as the "City Within a Park" because of the wide range of outdoor activities and natural settings that surround the metro area. Here are a few suggestions:
- Hiking/camping guide from Great Outdoor Provision Co.
- In addition to the Falls Lake Trail mentioned there, check out Cliffs of the Neuse Park for fishing and boating.
- For something closer to the meet, try Bond Park in Cary.
- If golf is your thing, look into Eagle Ridge in Raleigh or Lochmere in Cary, both public courses.