When last Saturday's Harford Invitational Cross Country Classic debuted without a hitch, Jim Otte breathed a sigh of relief.
"We couldn't have asked for better for a first-year event," said Otte, the race director. "We had good weather, good competition, good awards. Everything went real well."
Some of that was just luck. Most of it was extensive planning.
Otte spent hundreds of hours over the past year setting up the logistics of the Harford Invitational -- from plotting the course to recruiting volunteers to inviting the teams.
Such detailed planning certainly made life easy for the press. The program was outstanding -- by far the most thorough I've ever seen.
Races went off on time. And results were available within a reasonable time period; while result sheets lagged about two hours behind each race, but that was betterthan some races.
Otte, an attorney with the John Kelly Law Offices in Bel Air, lined up Olympians Vicki Huber and Peter Rono to hand out awards. Both spent a lot of time talking to the runners, and Huberworked like an assistant race director pitching in help where needed.
Otte had only one regret -- not bad for a first-time event.
"My only disappointment was that we didn't get more participation froma lot of schools in the Baltimore area. But my original fear was that we would throw a party and nobody would come."
Otte ran into a conflict with a Friday race, the Baltimore Metro Invitational, at Catonsville Community College that drew most of the Baltimore-area teams including eight of the The Sun's Top 10 girls teams.
But the Harford Invitational drew all of the Harford County public school teams and some fast competition from Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania. It also drew two of the country's top high school runners, Dulaney's Amanda White and Fork Union (Va.) Military's Ibrahim Aden.
White and Aden were the top two non-senior finishers at last year's Kinney national high school cross country championships.
In the seeded races,they posted their best times of the season. White ran 17:34, and Aden, 15:03, over the 3.1-mile course.
Both praised the blistering, fast course.
"I love this course," said White, who outran the competition by a minute and 42 seconds. "There's barely any hills, and it's fast."
Aden crossed the Harford finish line 24 seconds ahead of his cousin Jama Bile, also of Fork Union. Both are from Somalia in East Africa and both have run at Fork Union for three years.
"It wasa surprise for me, that time," said Aden, a senior. "This was a fastcourse, but it seemed long to walk it. It was faster than I thought."
The fast course should boost participation next year, predicted C. Milton Wright boys coach Bob Johnson.
"This has to be an attraction for anybody anywhere around the Northeast," said Johnson. "When you look at the times, and this is a legitimate 3.1 (mile course), it's got to entice people to come here. The field is so good. I think this thing is going to be like Hereford. It's not as tough a course, but it's got a beautiful start, a long layout, and it's fast."
One Baltimore County coach who ran his team at the Baltimore Metro Invitational decided after watching last Saturday's races that he would bring his team to Harford next year.
Otte, a member of RASAC's racingteam, has a commitment to run the second annual Harford Invitationalat HCC next Oct. 10. He's already started working on it.
An eventof this magnitude can't run without volunteers. In addition to Otte and HCC athletic director Don Dean, many HCC coaches and athletes served as marshals on the course. Jack Arthur handled the equipment.
RASAC donated the finish-line clock. Ed Sacco, Dan Zorn, Jim Pryde, Margaret Cooper and Mike Stevens also provided a lot of help.