It’s more than a dirt path at The Lexington School’s 12th Annual TLS Cross Country Invitational. It’s winding, narrow channels up and down soft grassy knolls, a creek jump, hay bails, mulch paths through woods, over gravel, across a bridge to a final ascent to the finish line chute. THIS is a cross country course that happens to be in The Lexington School’s backyard. THIS is the real thing.
It didn’t happen by chance. Athletic Director Tom Parlanti engaged Jim Kaiser, University of Kentucky athlete, all-American runner and owner of All Trax Timing to be The Lexington School’s head Cross Country coach. “Jim was a real get,” says Tom Parlanti, “We are lucky to have him.”
Tom tells the story: “12 years ago we began hosting the TLS Invitational Cross Country Meet at Masterson Station Park. Early in the cross country season there are plenty of meets, but most are shorter training distances. Jim felt we needed a meet that landed about a month before State, one that would be the same distance and in a location that felt similar so our kids could get ready physically and mentally. So we developed one and opened it up for entries.”
Elementary 6th grade and under run a 3K or 1.9 mile course while the 7th and 8th grade course is 4K or 2.4 miles. “It’s the real thing,” says Parlanti. “We work really hard to prepare a different kind of course for these kids, and it pays off. We had 600 runners this year.”
Jim Kaiser sets up and times cross country meets all over the country, and he is meticulous. He manages entries and all aspects of the meet. The cross country course at The Lexington School requires a full-day of setup for marking courses, making paths clear, preparing safe creek and hay bail jumps, and preparing the finish chute with professional timing equipment. Add a hospitality element which includes water stands, a hospitality tent with food for all 600 runners, a snow cone truck for that cold, sweet reward, and you have a special event unlike any in central Kentucky.
“It’s not just about the running for me,” says Meredith McCoun, Assistant Director of Athletics. “What I love is the festival environment we are able to create on our campus. We bring together the larger cross country community, kids and families from all over central Kentucky and welcome them to our home. It’s really a blast.”
It just so happens that Lexington School runners perform very well in their own backyard. This year the elementary girls team had a huge first place win with 5 girls in the top 15 and a total score of 27 points. The 2nd place team came in at a distant 110 points. These top scoring runners are recognized: Kate Conklin, Caroline Beiting, Eva Quinn, Laura B Friesen, and Katherine Monohan. The middle school girls team brought home a third place trophy as well.
Tom Parlanti again: “Jim reminded me the other day that in the 12 years of hosting this meet, one of our TLS teams has won a first place each year. And they are competing against other kids from schools all over the region, the same group they’ll see at State.” Can the comfort of home make such a difference? Or is it the preparation, hard work, and determination? Meredith McCoun: “I mean, they do JUMP that creek…”
For a full gallery of downloadable photos (yes there are more), go HERE to our album on Flickr.