Don't be surprised to find Jim Otte jogging around the Harford Community College grounds a lot this summer.
Otte, a Bel Air lawyer andavid runner, will be plotting a cross-country course around the HCC campus for the Oct. 12 inaugural running of the Harford County Invitational. He hopes the event will become the premier high school cross country meet in the Northeast, maybe even the East Coast, within a few years.
Otte's goal is to make the approximately three-mile course as visible to spectators as possible. "You want to have a challenging course, but you want the spectators to be able to see the runners as much as possible," said Otte. "When you have runners running head-to-head people want to see it."
He plans to have the race end on the HCC track. Sanctioned by the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association and supported by Harford Community College, the meet was Otte's idea. He will serve as meet director.
For the past 20 years, the Hereford Invitational at Hereford High School in northern Baltimore County, served as the top meet, drawing athletes from all over theMid-Atlantic states. When Hereford meet officials decided to end their event, Otte was sorry to see it go.
"There wasn't anything elselike the Hereford Invitational in Maryland or anywhere close by," said Otte, who has coached cross country at Calvert Hall. "When that went, I thought it was a real shame. I want to do the same thing at Harford, but it will be bigger. This will be a mega-event."
Otte saidhe sent notices about the race to 300 schools, but expects about 200teams for the first Harford County Invitational. About 80 schools participated in the Hereford Invitational.
Initially, Otte said, he will invite anyone who wants to come. But as he learns more about thecompetition over the next few years, he will narrow the field and weed out those that aren't competitive enough.
The meet will includethe traditional breakdown of races based
on population of schools. Races will be run for boys and girls in each of Maryland's classifications, 4A, 3A, 2A and 1A. Team and individual championships will beawarded in each class.
One improvement Otte will make is to add aseeded race for boys and one for girls to give the best runners a chance to compete against each other.
"If you have a great runner like (Fallston senior) Jenny Howard, you want to get to see her race against the other top runners. Coaches can put their elite runner or their whole team in the seeded section."