By Josh Brown
Miami Valley Today
COLUMBUS — After almost a decade, the state cross country meet has a new home.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association made the announcement Wednesday afternoon in a press release, saying that this fall the state cross country championships will take place at Fortress Obetz, a 50-acre multi-purpose sports complex located in Obetz on the southeast side of Columbus.
For the past nine years, from 2011 to 2019, the state cross country meet was held at National Trail Raceway, a dragstrip roughly 20 miles east of Columbus. Prior to that, the state meet was held at Scioto Downs, a horse racing track in Columbus, from 1985 to 2010, when the meet was forced to move after the facility added a casino.
Fortress Obetz, which boasts grandstands capable of seating 6,500 people, opened in 2017 and was built where Columbus Motor Speedway used to be located. This year’s state meet is scheduled to be held on Nov. 7 and “represents one of the largest high school cross country events in the country, with more than 11,000 fans,” according to the press release.
Fortress Obetz hosted the Ohio Machine, a professional lacrosse team, from 2017-2019 and was built to host concerts, festivals and more in addition to just sporting events. The press release said it has five video boards, concessions and restrooms, as well as “a huge parking lot.”
As for the grandstands themselves, they feature “1,100 flip-down seats, 2,000 bench-back seats and 3,400 bleacher seats.”
“The village of Obetz is extremely proud and excited to partner with the OHSAA,” National Director of Athletic Operations and Facilities Promotion Steve Adams said. “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.”
“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.”
Miami County’s cross country runners saw plenty of success at National Trail Raceway during the past nine years, including a pair of individual state champions and one team champion.
No one saw more success in Hebron than the Tippecanoe Red Devils, who scored three top-five team finishes on the boys side and five top-five team finishes on the girls side.
Sam Wharton, one year removed from a state runner-up finish, won an individual state title in Division I as a senior in 2012, then the Red Devils boys claimed the team title in 2014 — the school’s first — with the team also finishing second in 2013 and 2015. Tippecanoe’s girls, meanwhile, turned in five top-five finishes as a team, including four straight from 2015-2018 and a runner-up finish in 2015.
Troy’s Morgan Gigandet also made her way to the top of the podium in 2017, capping off her four-time qualifying career with a state championship. Troy’s girls also had two top-five finishes at National Trail Raceway, including a runner-up finish in 2016.
Contact Josh Brown at [email protected].
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