Ever since taking over the Central High School cross country program, McClendon envisioned hosting a meet of this nature. And with the course he’s set up — using the wooded area next to Central Middle School as part of the terrain — it’s turned out to be quite a challenging endeavor for even some of the best prep runners to conquer.
“I like to call it the true cross country course. It’s hilly. You’ve got some tight turns. Uphill, downhill. It’s a really good course,” McClendon said. “It’s fun to just get out here and run on it.”
There were two new course records set on Saturday morning in the varsity races — with Landmark Christian’s Kathryn Foreman setting the new benchmark for the girls at 19 minutes and 38 seconds, while Heard County’s Orlando Burgos bested last year’s Invitational champion for the guys with an 18:18.
As far as the team competition went, Landmark Christian ran away with the titles in both the boys and girls races, as there were runners from seven girls teams on hand to go along with 10 boys squads.
“We had more teams out this year than we did last year and we actually had some good running teams out here,” McClendon said. “It was very competitive. So hopefully that trend will continue and we’ll get some even more competitive teams out here in the future.”
The top local finisher in the girls varsity race was Anna Leah Deese of Central in sixth place (23:11), while Burgos captured the top honor for the guys. Central’s top finisher was Hunter Hughes in 14th (20:12).
In the middle school competition, Sydney Powell of Central took first place (14:28) for the girls, while Avery Savage of Central won the boys race (12:41). Central swept the middle school team titles, besting Temple and Villa Rica, respectively.
McClendon thought he and his crew ironed out some of the wrinkles from the first go-around and he looks for the Invitational to continue to grow and get better in years to come.
“I think this year we did a better job of marking off the trail and everything. So I think every year we’ll become just a little bit more organized so we get to the point where we can handle large crowds and things like that,” McClendon said. “But we’re working on it. I’ve got some good parent participation. So we’re learning.”
Of course, the event couldn’t run without the help of parent volunteers and other workers donating their time for the cause.
“Yes, a lot of parent support. With me being down here doing what I’m doing, I have to trust that they’re all in their spots doing what they’re supposed to be doing. And they are. So it really helps,” McClendon said.