Area running fans will be able to see most of the state's best this year when the state cross country championships move to Western Maryland College.
But they'll have to travel farther to see them in thespring, since the state track meet won't be in Westminster this year.
A major renovation at Hereford High in Baltimore County forced the Maryland Public Secondary School Athletic Association to scramble for a new cross country site.
Western Maryland, which has been praised for the way it helps the MPSSAA run the state wrestling and tracktournaments, was the first choice as an alternative site for the cross country meet.
Ironically, the famed course at Hereford, the only site in state cross country history, is not affected by the renovations. But state officials used several areas of the school -- including the locker rooms, cafeteria and gymnasium -- for dressing and training facilities, coaches meetings and awards ceremonies, and those areas are off-limits.
Though the state cross country committee briefly considered a course at Catonsville Community College in Baltimore County, Edward E. "Ned" Sparks, executive director of the MPSSAA, said the reputation of the WMC course and the college's performance in other state meets made the decision relatively simple.
"It's a verygood course," said Sparks, who said he recently walked the route on the college's golf course. "That's the dream of all cross country runners -- to run on a golf course."
Doug Renner, who coaches the college's cross country and track teams, said the course has a good reputation among high school coaches because of its use for the annual Westminster Invitational, recent regional meets and the county championships.
"Any time we can get high school student-athletes on our campus for any reason, that's a plus for us," Renner said. "The Westminster Invitational has been held there for many years. That played a key role."
Another important factor, Sparks said, was that no majorevents were planned for campus on Nov. 9, the date of the meet. The football team is on the road, and most other teams have finished their season or are in playoff games off campus.
Ironically, Renner won't be around to scout the best runners in the state while they're oncampus. He'll be in Pennsylvania with the Green Terrors in the Middle Atlantic Conference championships that day.
But assistant coach Mike Whitmore is staying behind to be site director for the meet. Andthough college coaches can't actively recruit runners that day, Renner said Whitmore "will be taking notes" about the day's top competitors.
Sparks wouldn't say if the meet would return next year to the Hereford course, which has several long hills, a maze and even a section run on the school track.
"Let's just say it's (at Western Maryland) for this year," he said.
The absence of the track meet from WMC apparently is just a one-year deal, though, and the main culprit appears to be the calendar. Memorial Day weekend is unusually early in 1992 -- May 22-24 -- and that's the weekend of the state track meet.
It's also graduation weekend at the school.
"You can't expectthe college to rewrite their whole schedule," Renner said. "That's abig weekend for the college."
Barry Bolsey, director of conference services and facilities management at the college, said the conflict is likely to occur any time Memorial Day falls early in the schedule.
Sparks said the MPSSAA found itself in a similar situation in football last fall, when renovation work at the University of Maryland's Byrd Stadium made the state football championships a nomad for a year. The four title games were split at various sites, including two in Carroll, but will return to College Park this fall.
Sparks saidhe'd like to keep the four state meets together at one site as they have been for the past three years, but said finding a convenient site may be difficult.
The state voted to leave Towson State two years ago because of the high rental charge, though Renner said the Towson Stadium track has been refurbished recently. He said the track at Mount St. Mary's College in nearby Emmitsburg, Frederick County, wouldbe suitable, too.
Frostburg State University is rumored to be interested in playing host to the state track meet, but its location in western Allegany County could create travel problems for many schools.