National Trail Raceway in Hebron, 20 miles east of Columbus, was quite kind to area cross-country runners over the last handful of years.
The next group, hoping to get started in the fall, will take aim at a new venue, though, as the Ohio High School Athletic Association announced its cross country state championships are moving to Fortress Obetz — a 50-acre multi-purpose sports complex with a 6,500-seat grandstand located on the southeast side of Columbus.
“We can’t wait for our student-athletes and Ohio’s entire cross country community to experience the state championships at Fortress Obetz,” OHSAA Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass said. “This facility is so impressive, from the course layout for the competitors to being more spectator friendly for the fans, and we are thrilled to sign a five-year agreement. We would like to thank National Trail Raceway for hosting the state championships for the last nine years and doing an outstanding job as our host.”
More than a few memories were made at National Trail Raceway.
Buckeye Valley’s girls made the cut in D-II while Olentangy Orange and Olentangy Liberty qualified for the state showcase in Division I last season.
BV’s Chloe Dawson had the best individual finish among county standouts, finishing 20th. Big Walnut’s Colbi Borland competed as an individual, finishing with the best overall area finish in D-I — 33rd overall.
Orange qualified on the boys’ side last fall and Liberty made the trip each of the two years prior.
Buckeye Valley’s Zach Kreft won a state title in 2017, finishing first in 15:20.6 — a mark more than 20 seconds better than that of Ryan Johnston, the runner-up from Lexington.
Buckeye Valley’s boys finished ninth in the state that season. Liberty’s girls, led by Gracie Sprankle’s fourth-place finish, closed third as a team in 2017. Emma Bower also nabbed a top-10 finish for the Patriots, closing ninth.
Sprankle also qualified in 2018, finishing sixth overall.
Now, the next generation will set its sights on Fortress Obetz, which opened in 2017 on the former site of the Columbus Motor Speedway. The racing that will now take place there in early November represents one of the largest high school cross country events in the country, with more than 11,000 fans expected.
“The Village of Obetz is extremely proud and excited to partner with the OHSAA,” said Steve Adams, National Director of Athletic Operations and Facilities Promotion. “We feel our Memorial Park and the Fortress is perfectly suited for the OHSAA Cross Country State Tournament. We have created a safe and challenging course for the runners and kept the spectator experience in mind as well.”
The grandstand includes 1,100 flip-down seats, 2,000 bench-back seats and 3,400 bleacher seats.