Jim Otte has spent a lot of time running around Harford Community College plotting a cross country course to challenge the top high school runners.
Saturday, more than 1,000 athletes from the Mid-Atlantic area will discover how tough Otte's course is at the inaugural Harford County Invitational Cross Country Classic. Otte, who serves as meet director, wants the Harford County Invitational to be an annual event.
A Bel Air attorney and former cross country coach at Calvert Hall, Otte came up with the idea for the race after learning that the officials of the Hereford Invitational decided to end their 20-year run last fall. The race, at Hereford High School in northern Baltimore County, had served as the premier cross country meet in state, and Ottewanted to fill the void.
"There wasn't anything else like the Hereford Invitational in Maryland or anywhere close by. When that went, I thought it was a real shame," said Otte, an avid runner.
As meetdirector, Otte planned every aspect of the Harford race, which is sanctioned by the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association and backed by Harford Community College.
Close to 70 teams are expected to race. Schools from four states and the District of Columbia have entered. All of the teams in Harford County are expected to compete except John Carroll.
Otte put the finishing touches on his winding, 3.1-mile course last week.
The course begins with two loops around a grassy field next to the observatory and then winds arounda barn behind Havre de Grace Hall. Runners will continue along a tree line behind the barn, looping around the back of campus and then out to the tennis courts.
After circling the courts, the course heads back to the tree line behind Thomas Run Park, then down beside a soybean field and out along Route 22 to the finish line in a corner of the campus near Route 22 and Thomas Run Road.
"It's a challenging course," said Otte, a winner in the RASAC Harmony Half Marathon on Sept. 28 in Churchville. "There just aren't any Hereford hills, but when you get to the back end of the course, there are a lot of turns, and you have to run on the sides of hills. It'll tire you out. It's nota flat, easy course."
One of Otte's goals in designing the coursewas to make runners visible to spectators for as long as possible. At Hereford, runners were only visible for about a mile of the entire course.
"When you have good runners running head-to-head, people want to see it," said Otte.
To assure that the best runners competeagainst each other, Otte has added seeded races for girls and boys.
There will also be small schools (Class 1A/2A) and large schools (Class 3A/4A) varsity races, but coaches can enter their entire team or just their elite runners in the seeded race.
The premier races -- the seeded divisions -- are scheduled to run at 2:05 p.m. for girlsand 2:45 for boys.
Harford County's top prospect in the seeded race is C. Milton Wright sophomore Brian Harris, a winner at the Westminster Invitational two weeks ago.
Other top runners expected include Jama Bile, of Fork Union Academy in Virginia, in the boys race, and Amanda White, of Dulaney, the top prep girl runner in Maryland.
In other races, the small schools will have the morning shift with the junior varsity girls running at 9:20, followed by the JV boys. The small school varsity girls start at 10:35 followed by the boys at 11:15.
The large school JV girls race at 11:50, followed by a lunch break and awards ceremony for the morning races.
The afternoon begins with the large school JV boys race at 1:30, followed by the seededraces. The large school varsity girls run at 3:15, followed by the boys at 3:50.