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State meet will get back on course

A streak will be snapped when the state cross country meets are held at Circling Raven Golf Course in Worley later this month.

Have any idea what I’m talking about? Perhaps streak is the wrong word here. Maybe pattern or trend is more apt.

It’s been 11 years since state cross country meets have been held at a golf course.

Longtime long-distance running coach Kent Eggleston, who is an assistant at Lake City and spent some time across town at Coeur d’Alene, is a running contradiction. By day he’s a man of the woods, out planting new trees working for the forest service.

When it comes to cross country, he’s a believer that state meets should be contested on a golf course, not in state parks.

For the past 10 years, the state meets have been held at state parks, including stops at Farragut north of Coeur d’Alene and Hells Gate in Lewiston.

In the 1990s, though, state meets were held five times at golf courses. Over in Washington, state meets have had a permanent home at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco since 1988. From 1983-85, state was staged at Spokane’s Hangman Valley Golf Course.

This fall was North Idaho’s turn in the state meet rotation. But it wasn’t until a year ago that Circling Raven was finalized as the 2009 site.

The Idaho High School Activities Association left it up to Eggleston and Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy coach Lewis Watkins to determine a site. They considered the past sites and also thought about Silverwood where the Coaster Cross meet is held.

They contacted management at Circling Raven.

“They were very receptive,” Eggleston said.

So the coaches sought input from other area coaches and began plotting a possible course.

Circling Raven will get a test run Oct. 22 when the state-qualifying meets for 5A, 4A, 3A and 2A will be staged there. The state meets will return Oct. 31.

Eggleston put a premium on a spectator-friendly course. He said there are spots at Circling Raven where the entire race can be viewed. If getting a crowd to a cross country meet of any kind is important, set up a course where most if not all of it can be seen without having to run to try to keep up with the runners. If you’ve seen my body shape, you’ll know I’m not keen on cross country being an interactive sport.

But I digress.

“We had in our minds what we wanted to create before we went out to Circling Raven,” Eggleston said.

The course will have character and be a test, too, Eggleston said.

“There are hills in the course,” he said. “It’s not an aggressive hill, but because of where it’s located it will seem like a big hill.”

The course essentially involves two loops mostly along the carpet-like fairways with a 200-meter long bridge over an environmentally sensitive area. Runners will not be allowed to use spikes since most of the course is on grass.

Eggleston will alter the state-qualifying layout slightly from the state course. That’s to keep North Idaho athletes from having an unfair advantage at state, Eggleston said.

“We’ll probably throw in a bend or two to make the regional course slower than the state course,” he said. “We want the state meet course to be faster.”

Eggleston’s hope is Circling Raven will become a part of the regular state rotation.