Hey Warriors fans, today is Thursday, Oct. 3.
A tradition will be coming to an end at this fall’s state cross-country meet at Lane Community College in Eugene.
The section known as “Poison Oak Alley” will no longer be a part of the 5,000-meter course where the state’s top distance runners compete for championship medals and trophies. Philomath has been a perennial power through the years with countless runners and teams that have performed at a high level. Coach Joe Fulton, who has been involved with Warriors athletics for decades, recalls running through that part of the course himself in his younger years.
“It is different ... a bit of a split with the past,” Fulton said. “I even raced that alley at the state meet in 1972. But I don’t have a problem with the change.”
(Fulton placed fifth at state that year running for Central Catholic).
Why did the Oregon School Activities Association decide to make the change?
According to a story written by Doug Binder, DyeStat.com editor, that appeared on the OSAAtoday website, the property with that stretch of the course does not belong to Lane Community College. The land is privately owned and apparently faces an uncertain future.
OSAA assistant executive director and state meet director Brad Garrett faced the prospect of year-by-year discussions with the lawyers who manage the trust controlling the property in order to receive permission to use that space, Binder wrote in his story.
"We didn't want to flip-flop (our plans) every year based on what lawyers were telling us," Garrett said in the Binder piece. "In several conversations with LCC about what does it look like into the future, we decided to eliminate Poison Oak Alley and make modifications that make it similar to the layout used for the Northwest Classic."
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The OSAA will no longer need to buy a permit to close Eldon Schaefer Drive. The course will stay on LCC property and will loop around additional ponds on the west end.
“I think the kids will miss it since it got them away from the crowds for a stretch,” Fulton said. “It also added to the mystery of the race. Who will come out of Poison Oak Alley first?”
Actually, Fulton said the new layout will likely make it possible for spectators to see the whole race — perhaps with binoculars from the berm.
“The one-mile mark was at the end of the alley,” he said. “However, I think the spectators will like it because now you can see the entire race.”
Bus drivers might like the change as well.
“Maybe it will mean buses can turn in that first driveway instead of going all the way around the college,” Fulton said.
The OSAA began holding the state cross-country meet at Lane CC in 1970.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at the next game.
— Brad Fuqua, Philomath Express