TERRE HAUTE —
The 2012 NCAA Division III cross country championship taking place this weekend gives Terre Haute a chance to shine on a national stage, organizers said.
This is the first year the Division III schools championship has taken place at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course and some of the teams coming to the event represent some of the best colleges and universities in the country, said Dave Patterson, executive director of the Terre Haute Convention and Visitors Bureau.
MIT is just one of the outstanding schools being represented at this weekend’s event, Patterson noted.
“What better people to impress with your community than people that are going to shape the world,” Patterson said.
Rose-Hulman, itself one of the top engineering schools anywhere, is hosting the championship.
“We’re proud to continue our tradition of hosting national championship events,” said Kevin Lanke, assistant athletic director at Rose. “Some of the participating schools are the best of the best.”
The cross country course, established about 15 years ago, was a dream of LaVern Gibson, Patterson noted. To see the course develop and attract such great athletes from around the country has been a real point of pride for the city, he said.
“It was literally a field of mud” before the course opened, Patterson said. “To think back, I’m really proud.”
The lightly-rolling course, located east of Terre Haute International Airport – Hulman Field, is clearly popular with cross country athletes and coaches.
“It’s kind of a Mecca for cross country,” said Coach Don Nichter of Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, who was at the course late Friday afternoon with Dennis Young, a senior runner at the college.
Most cross country tracks are thrown together on golf courses or on college campuses, he said. To have a dedicated course like the LaVern Gibson course is special.
“It’s rare in the sport,” Nichter said. “It’s a little different from what we are used to.”
Meanwhile, Mother Nature is also expected to do her part to help make this weekend’s championship a success. The weather is truly ideal, Nichter said.
Teams started arriving Thursday and many were expected to stay through Saturday night, Lanke said. On Friday night, Rose-Hulman was hosting a 900-person banquet for the athletes, coaches and other key players, he noted.
The event is expected to boost the local economy by about $500,000, Patterson said.
In addition to the men’s and women’s cross country championships, athletes with the Special Olympics will also be taking part in a 400-yard run down the main straight-away of the course at 10:30 this morning, Patterson said. That will be followed by the men’s race at 11 a.m. and the women’s race at noon.
“It’s a wonderful thing,” Patterson said of the overall event. “People are so excited, it’s really kind of cool. If there’s a better group of people [than distance runners], I haven’t met them.”
Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or firstname.lastname@example.org.