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State cross country to wrap nearly a year of planning, provide an economic boost
Where: Norris-Penrose Event Center
When: Saturday: Opening ceremonies: 8 a.m.; 2A girls, 9:30 a.m.; 3A boys, 10 a.m.; 4A boys, 10:30 a.m.; 5A girls, 11 a.m.; 2A boys, 11:30 a.m.; 3A girls, Noon; 4A girls, 12:30 p.m.; and 5A boys, 1 p.m.; team awards, 1:45 p.m.
Parking: $5 per vehicle on north side of Lower Gold Camp Road or $10 on grounds at Norris-Penrose Event Center. Spectators are encouraged not to park in surrounding neighborhoods.
Restrictions: None. Bags and coolers are allowed, but concessions will be available on site.
Athlete Village: The indoor arena at Norris-Penrose Event Center doubles as the Athlete Village for the state cross country meet. The 36,000-square foot building has lights, heat and is a short 90-second walk to the start line.
Directions: From I-25: Take Exit 141 and turn left at Cimarron, left at South 8th St. and right at Lower Gold Camp Road. South: I-25 N to Exit 141 and turn left. From US-24: Turn right on South 21st St., then turn left on Lower Gold Camp Road at light. Continue past Bear Creek Regional Park. Norris-Penrose Event Center will be on the right.
After Saturday, Cheyenne Mountain cross country coach and guidance counselor Stan Lambros won’t have quite as much to think about.
That’s because in the nine-plus months since the Colorado High School Activities Association approved Cheyenne Mountain’s bid to host the 2012 and 2013 state cross-country meets at Norris-Penrose Event Center and Bear Creek Regional Park, Lambros has found a way to juggle his current responsibilities with the daunting task of coordinating and staging a premier event with 178 teams and approximately 10,000 spectators.
“I don’t think that there really has been a day since we first found out that I haven’t poked at it, planned, or dealt with some aspect of it,” Lambros said. “Every day, we’re pretty much continuing to work on different things to make it better and make it something we can pull off at a high level. Our goal all along is to be the most welcome of hosts we can be. We want to roll out the red carpet for the whole state.”
The first of eight state-title races begin at 9:30 a.m. and continue through 1 p.m.
By then, the near-endless planning will hopefully have paid off, from figuring out how many portable restrooms will suffice (about 100), to coordinating volunteer efforts and managing traffic and parking, in addition to marking and maintaining the 5,000-meter course that winds through the park and concludes in the event center’s rodeo arena. Then there’s the task of cleaning up afterward.
“This is a full-time job by itself,” Cheyenne Mountain athletic director Kris Roberts said. “Actually, it’s one-twenty fifth of what I have to do since we have 24 other sports. We’ve had tremendous volunteer help and partnerships with Norris-Penrose, Bear Creek Park, El Paso County parks as well as the city. We’re probably talking 250 total people involved, and I can’t appreciate them enough.”
Colorado Springs last played host to the state cross country meet in 2007, when Harrison completed a two-year commitment at El Pomar Youth Sports Complex. In discussing this year’s event, conversations have steered away from starting over every two years at a different site and perhaps finding a permanent home.
Saturday’s show could be the first of many more in the city’s southwest side, just west of Eighth Street off Lower Gold Camp Road.
“We definitely want to get to a place where we could sustain the event and make it better,” said CHSAA cross country commissioner Jenn Roberts-Uhlig. “We’ve been very pleased with the Cheyenne Mountain staff. They’ve gone above and beyond to make this a great event.”
The thought of an annual event that would bring thousands of student-athletes and fans to Colorado Springs, many for overnight stays, was music to the ears of Dana Kahlhamer, associate director of sales at Crowne Plaza Hotel, one of two designated host hotels for statewide guests.
“I’m so for that,” said Kahlhamer, who reported 180 room nights had been booked for Friday. “That would be fantastic to be an annual event here. Plus, we absolutely love the business and is a great boost into the holiday season.”
At least one Eighth Street restaurant didn’t take notice of the large marquee sign at Norris-Penrose announcing Saturday’s event. Sonic general manager Miguel Moreno quickly considered a few last-minute changes to beef up his staff in advance of the influx of customers that will flood the area.
“Usually, I have three people in the kitchen and eight at the front on a busy Saturday,” said Moreno, who manages the location at 603 S. Eighth St. in a corridor that also includes such choices as McDonald’s, La Casita, Texas Roadhouse and Captain D’s, among others. “I already made the schedule, but I’m definitely going to be calling one more cook and three more people up front, just to be prepared.”