XC Course for a Horse, of Course
By: Kevin Milsted
Sunday, September 10, 2017

What is in a race course? If a 5k cross country course could be made just about anywhere, why are half a dozen Montgomery County teams driving most of the way to Philadelphia each year to kick off their seasons at the Track and Trail Invitational at the Fair Hill Training Facility near Elkton, MD? I asked that exact question to four MoCo coaches.

Kellie Redmond, Wootton High School: "I love this course. I love the course...I'm a little bummed that there are not more teams in the large school race this year, but I love the course. I love the fact that it's an invitational, but it doesn't feel overly stressful for the first one. It's like a nice entry into that I think. We've had great experiences. Even the year it was pouring rain and freezing, I always really enjoyed being here. And the kids like it...It's a nice entry into the rest of the season."

Seann Pelkey, Quince Orchard High School: "We love the course and this course is one of the best courses in the state of Maryland, I think: great spectator course, great for the beginning runners, great for the veteran runners to get a real honest gauge of where there are. I think that the fact that the field is relatively small gives us a chance to assess where the packs are. And the fact that we get to see some of the better teams in the state, it's a little bit of everything and a great place for opening weekend."

Nathan Timm, Watkins Mill High School: "This being our second year coming here, we just wanted to run a nice flat course. Obviously training at Watkins Mill is an extremely hilly one. We wanted one that mirrors the county course. And it's fun. It's a regional size meet, so it gives us a good experience to run against good competition, but it's not a mega-meet like Oatlands or Glory Days. It's a great start for the newcomers and the top kids."

Davy Rogers, Richard Montgomery High School: "For us, we just like to try to see some different competition. A lot of the other meets that are this week, you see a lot of the other county schools. So here, it's usually just us, Quince Orchard, Wootton and Watkins Mill. So it's nice to get up and plus the course is just awesome. For the parents, they can see their kids run for most of the race, and they also put on a pretty good meet up here."

I would just clear up one thing. The Fair Hill course is not the flattest course in Maryland. Sure, it is not hilly like the Watkins Mill High School campus or Hereford High School, but I would say that it is hillier than our county championship course at Gaithersburg High School. It is hillier than the DCXC course. It has long gradual hills, similar to the NXN (or Adidas or Great American) Course in Cary, North Carolina, except the Fair Hill course has rougher footing than the finely groomed Cary, NC course.

One might say that the Fair Hill course is the perfect race course...for horses. Fair Hill is a facility for training and racing horses. In fact, the facility was officially nominated by the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) to host a world-class, four-star horse eventing competition in the fall of 2019, according to The Track and Trail Invitational meet director made a similar announcement during the coaches' meeting and added that hundreds of thousands of dollars would go into revitalizing the facility starting in 2018. Therefore, the Track and Trail Invitational will never look quite the same again.

One other interesting note from not only was the Fair Hill race track selected for the international event, it was selected OVER Great Meadow in Virginia. Why is that interesting, pray tell? Great Meadow has long been used as the high school state championship cross country venue in Virginia. Therefore, Maryland's horse race track that is borrowed for a high school cross country event is better than Virginia's horse race track that is borrowed for a high school cross country event. Nanny, nanny, boo, boo, Virginia.


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