Fun Stuff


Scoping the New 4A West Course
By: Kevin Milsted

Gaithersburg High School debuted its new 4A West Regional cross country course today in a home meet against Poolesville, Blake, and Damascus High Schools. It was purely coincidence that none of today's visiting teams were schools in the 4A West classification. Last week, Gaithersburg used the county championship course for its home meet because this new regional course was not yet ready. It is worth emphasizing that the county championship course is not changing.

I repeat: the Montgomery County Championship Meet course is not changing from what it has been for the last six years.

For the first time since the school underwent construction in 2010, Gaithersburg utilized the athletic fields behind its campus to start and finish a race. It was similar to what us old-time alumni called the "dual meet course" at GHS, but it was different enough that it should definitely be considered something brand new.

The course began on the artificial turf field and quickly bottlenecked through a fence opening at the end of the track. Today's race managed to squeeze over 100 runners through the fence opening without incident. The 4A West Regional Meet will have a maximum of 98 runners per race. It would not work for the county championship meet, and nobody is saying that there is plenty of clearance, but it should work. 4A West runners should plan accordingly.

In the old dual meet course, runners exited the track and hooked a sharp right around the track. In this new 4A West Course, runners continued straight across the field to the edge of the property and ran up a small hill to loop around the upper field. Runners ran down a paved path and completed a large loop around Bohrer Park in the opposite direction of the current county course (very similar to the old county meet course).

The return to the campus included extra loops around the upper field and baseball field and did not include the sharp hills by the tennis courts characteristic of the old county course. The course ended on the track but the 4A West Course this year will end on the turf field inside the track.

Admittedly, anyone who has been around for less than seven years has already stopped reading this article and/or has no idea what they just read. One of Montgomery County's top present day runners, Andrew Lent of Poolesville High School, was kind enough to share his thoughts and opinions on the course, even though he is not even in the 4A West Region. I asked him to be very honest and not be afraid to criticize the course if he wanted to. The Gaithersburg athletic staff will be interested to hear all feedback good and bad.

Excerpts from a post-race interview with Poolesville's Andrew Lent:

"The start is really good...a little tight at the beginning but I've run big invitationals that are just as tight at the beginning, so I'd say for a regional course it would be great."

"There is a little bit more pavement than I'd like for a regional course but overall there is enough room to run on the sides. On the way out, you'll definitely have some guys on the pavement, but it will be ok. From there it is the same as counties and I love the counties course. So I'd say it's pretty good."

"It's definitely going to be slower than the counties course, but that's fine for a regionals course."

"I didn't love the back section behind the baseball field over there. There is a bit where you are up on one side and you slant down and it's just kind of bad footing, but other than that it's a pretty good course especially for what they have here."

Lent dropped a 16:21 5k performance at the Oatlands Invitational three days prior to today's 17:21 performance at this new 4A West Regional course. I asked if people should be concerned that the new regional course may be a full minute slower than Oatlands, but he assured me that his time today was not indicative of the speed of the course. Given the different atmosphere and stakes from Oatlands to a dual meet, it is understandable.

Excerpts from a post-race interview with Gaithersburg Coach Herb Tolbert:

How did the 4A West Regional Meet come to be hosted by Gaithersburg after the Clarksburg course at High Point Farm was no longer a suitable venue?

"We were asking around what courses we could use, and I said we could certainly do it at the park here at Gaithersburg if no one could come up with anything better and I guess no one came up with anything better so we won by default I guess...and I don't mind it. I really enjoy it. It's fun for us and I get a lot of support from my athletic director."

Why do you want to include this back section of your campus as opposed to doing the entire race in Bohrer Park?

"Truth be told, economically, it is easier to do it here. We have a little more control and also I thought I could make this a little more challenging. Obviously we can't make it like Hereford because we don't have those kind of hills, but I wanted it to be a little more challenging than the county course."

What are the pros and cons of this new course?

The Pros:

"The start and finish. I mean we got the bleachers here. It's going to be a great place to start and it's a great place to finish. We've got the stadium clock going. Whether we have a chrono at the finish or not, everyone can see [the stadium clock]. Everything here is convenient for restrooms and concessions."

The Cons:

"There is probably a little more hard surface than I would have wanted."

Neither a pro nor a con:

"A lot of places where we reversed the course you are going uphill as opposed to downhill. We tried. If you go up you've got to come down so even at counties...but I think doing it this way it does add a little bit there."

More twists and turns -

"You're going to have to be thinking and paying attention and knowing where you are."

Very Unofficial Course Map Created by Mocorunning - Accuracy not Guaranteed

Both the County and 4A West Regional courses are Pokemon-Approved


Ryun Anderson
2016-09-21 00:12:00

Nothing against this course (I haven't seen it yet) but there's got to be a good public park somewhere around Moco to hold a regional meet at. I don't know any of the logistics of getting a suitable place but there's plenty of parks that come to mind.

2016-09-21 09:28:12

much much better than the current county course which is contained in the farm park. If they were looking for a good buildup to Hereford, the best bet imo is Watkins Mill.

Coach B
2016-09-21 11:30:18

The course yesterday seemed to run not fast but not slow. I am not a big fan of track finishes especially anything over 200 meters. It was very easy to follow, my kids seemed to enjoy it and Gathersburg and surrounding parks offered a nice venue. I touch too much pavement in the first mile but I don't know how you could avoid that. The coaching staff knows how to run a great meet there!

2016-09-21 15:51:21

Definitely agree with Ryun. This is supposed to be cross country not run on a flat path around a school. Although high point farm became too difficult to use and the hosts would alter the course and change it each race (3.2miles in 2015), the course was excellent and 100% what cross is about. The Watkins mill course is always an option as is the Rockville Civic center where the region meet used to be held. The WMAL towers is textbook cross country but obviously meets there have never been possible. Hope next year the region meet finds a real course. We already get track season november through may plus at the xc county meet

2016-09-21 15:52:25

can't believe coaches are trying to move the state meet away from hereford. Just teach your runners to run hill and to have some heart and they will succeed.

2016-09-21 19:43:38

How about Smokey Glenn Farm?

Ryun Anderson
2016-09-21 23:14:03

@ f;jk..... the whole hubbub about the MD state meet - at least from what I've heard - has to do more with the surrounding community rather than the course itself.

Kevin Milsted
2016-09-22 06:00:33

Coaches also have to consider severe weather and medical emergencies, bus access, the cost of facility, ample parking and rest rooms, the ability to mark and rope off the course exactly how they want, and so on. It is what Tolbert meant when he said things like 'economically' and 'more control.' With that said, Smokey Glenn is a great challenging cross country course!

2016-09-22 17:38:29

Cant argue with smokey glen, although its no fun to run, it is a real XC course no doubt. Would be interesting to see how it would be as a regional venue

Sam Martin
2016-09-22 19:48:17

Kevin, did the group that worked on finding a course consider the Farm Park? That would be a tremendous regional course or even a great alternate state course (heaven forbid it moves from Hereford!) It's an option that would ease some of those logistical constraints Coach Tolbert was talking about. After all, it did host the USA XC championships.

Ryun Anderson
2016-09-22 20:01:00

Don't they hold the MD-DC Private School State meet there? Seems like a good enough place although I've never been there and I don't know the logistics behind securing a place like that.

Da Silva-Einstein
2016-09-22 21:11:46

Ag Farm was looked into as a possible venue. A couple of issues with the Ag Farm: 1)They worry heavily about parking and bathrooms. 2) If there is inclement weather, we need to be able to have the venue the next day. That cannot be guaranteed. As much as the quality of the course matters, all of the logistics (that Kevin mentioned) involved make it really difficult to go away from a County controlled facility.

2016-09-23 13:39:32

tbh why wasn't there like a vote or something before deciding on a new regional course at G burg. Like c'mon, we already have counties at G burg.

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