Finishing strong with several runners earning medals and others logging personal best course times, the Warriors recently may have ran their final home cross-country meet at Marion Country Club.
Coach Rebecca Hofer appeared before the club board at its September meeting to request the use of its golf course for next year’s practices and home meet.
With one board member missing, four voted against her request and two for it, Marion High School principal and country club member Tod Gordon said.
He asked the board to reconsider its decision.
Most schools have cross-country meets on local golf courses because of the cushioned surface the fertile grass affords runners, he said.
“Nobody wants to run on pavement or hard surfaces like washed out gravel anymore, “Gordon said. “It can cause runners shin splints and injuries.”
Marion’s home cross-country meet used to be at the county lake. However, Gordon said that option became undesirable for many teams, which was why USD 408 initially requested to use the golf course for home meets.
“I’ve had some schools tell me they won’t come back to our meet if we go back to having it at the county lake,” Gordon said.
In the past, some schools that stopped attending Marion’s home meet while it was at the lake returned once the meet moved to the country club, Gordon said.
Club board president Don Noller confirmed that the board will discuss the issue again at their next meeting on Oct. 14.
“We’re not against the school, we support the school, but anytime we have an issue, I check with our members,” Noller said. “(Before September’s meeting) several members told me they’d prefer the kids to not be out there.”
However, since the meeting, Noller said other members requested the board to revisit the topic.
“One major concern is the safety of the kids,” he said. “We have golfers out there and the kids would be in-play during cross-country practices.”
Essentially, the idea of a runner accidentally being hit by a golf ball makes some country club members nervous, he said.
Some country club members raised the issue that they pay for their membership. Cross-country practice interferes with their golf, and some see the home meets as a night they can’t go and golf, Noller said.
USD 408 does not pay the country club a fee for use of the golf course during practice or meets.
Another country club concern is the effect practices could have on the condition of the course.
“A couple years ago we had to replace the greens,” Noller said. “It had nothing to do with the runners, but many people don’t realize how much money it takes to repair a green.”
After that process, Noller said some country club members witnessed spectators at a home cross-country meet standing on a green.
“I don’t think there was ever any damage by us (USD 408 students),” Gordon said, “but there was a meet where I had to ask some patrons not to walk across a green.”
At this year’s meet, country club officials asked USD 408 to rope-off specific areas including the greens near where cross-country runners ran.
However, when asked if there had been any discussion on allowing home meets without allowing Marion runners to practice at the golf course, Noller said, “It’s all or nothing really,” and emphasized the issue will be revisited at October’s board meeting.