WESTMINSTER - The Middle Atlantic Conference cross country championships are moving south of the Mason-Dixon line for the first time in the 63-year history of the meet.
Western Maryland College will play host to this year's meet on Nov. 3 at the Carroll County Farm Museum. The meet has almost always been conducted in Pennsylvania, where 21 of the 26 current MAC members are located.
The meet was run in Newark, Del., in 1952, when the University of Delaware was a conference member, and the event was conducted in New York City from 1921 to 1933, when several area schools such as Manhattan University and Rutgers University were members.
Since 1985, the meet had been presented alternately by schools in the eastern and western sections of the conference, with Gettysburg (Pa.) College playing host to the 1986 and 1988 events.
But Western Maryland College coachDoug Renner said he wanted to bring the meet to Carroll County, and said Gettysburg coach Ed Riggs has helped with the layout and measurement of the course.
"Our course at Western Maryland has been considered too tough," Renner said, explaining the move to the Farm Museum.
But, though the museum course may be flatter than the WMC trail, Renner said it still should present some interesting challenges, including two loops through a wooded area on the women's trail and three loops for the men. The course also will cover part of the adjacent Agricultural Center.
"I think it's going to be an excellent spectator course," Renner said. "It's a good route with moderately rolling hills, open fields and woods with trails. It will give the runners a true sense of what I think cross country is all about."
Of the 26 MAC schools in Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, 24 usually field cross country teams. As many as seven runners from each team may competewith the top five scoring, making for a maximum field of 168 runners in both the men's and women's races. The actual number likely will be lower, with some schools sending no runners or just a partial team.
The timing worked out well, Renner said, because the first weekend in November is the first weekend the museum closes for the winter season. On the other hand, he said, his own runners may not get a trial run on the course until the actual race date.
Aside from playing host to the conference championships, several other improvements have been made to the team's schedule for the upcoming season.
Most notably, the Green Terrors have been invited to the University of Virginia Invitational, featuring many top NCAA Division I teams. But that Sept. 22 event conflicts with a recently rescheduled invitational at Howard Community College.
Renner said he may send his top runners to the Virginia meet and send the rest of the squad to the Howard meet.
And the Green Terrors will have their own invitational at 11 a.m. Oct. 20. Renner said the WMC invitational was added to the schedule to give the squad an opportunity to face teams it wouldn't usually meet in the dual-meet season.
"We'll get to see some of the schools we don't usually run against," Renner said. "We've invited up to 20 squads."
Among the teams invited include state universities such as Frostburg, Morgan and Towson, as well as two Baltimore-area private schools with growing athletic programs -- Goucher and Villa Julie.
Renner said the ultimate goal of the new scheduling is to improve the level of competition during the regular season to better prepare runners for postseason meets such as the conference and NCAA regional championships.
"I sat down with (WMC Athletic Director Rick) Carpenter to schedule the meets I feel will get the kids ready for the postseason," Renner said. "My emphasis has never been on dual meets. Unfortunately, in cross country, you are often judged by your dual-meet record."
Copyright The Baltimore Sun 1990