T-D HS Cross Country

Forest Hills serves as first-time Dist. 6 host

By: Cory Isenberg

SIDMAN — When the opportunity to host the District 6 cross country championships arose, Forest Hills literally ran with it.
On Saturday for the first time in many years, the finals were held at the course at the Forest Hills Middle School rather than at Indian Valley Elementary and Intermediate School in Reedsville.
For Forest Hills Athletic Director Joe Gironda, the transition has gone relatively smoothly.
“Honestly, there were not a lot of challenges,” Gironda said. “We have a great site and Tom Hunter, our head coach, and Dave Molnar, his assistant, have done many events here. They’ve hosted the Forest Hills Invitational for many years and it’s nearly as big as this meet, which has over 600 runners here today. I’ve really relied heavily on them and they have made it very easy for me.”
Prior to Saturday, maps with directions to the site were sent out to the various schools in their packets.
“I’ve had two people call for directions here this week and they were both parents,” Gironda said. “A lot of the coaches when they found out the meet was going to be here called to find out if they could come here to practice and some came last Saturday. We wanted everyone to have the same advantage.”
It was Hunter’s suggestion that Forest Hills get an opportunity to host the district event.
“When I first started my job as AD two years ago, Tom said that our course rivals some of the state courses and he wanted to know if I thought we could host the event. Several other coaches said they would be interested in running the course because they knew it due to the invitational and they like the course, so we decided to try to get it.”
According to coaches and participants, the course is very similar in layout to the one at Indian Valley, and it’s a fast course.
The biggest change is to the participants, whose drive time may have differed depending on location.
“The biggest difference for us and for most of the schools here, is travel,” Bishop McCort coach Greg Bixel said. “We had a 2- to 2 ½ hour bus ride on Saturday morning and leaving Johnstown at 5:30 or 6 a.m. and that’s tough on the kids. It’s tough to ride that long and then get out and run for some kids what might be their biggest race of the year. We’ve been doing it for years, so this is a nice opportunity for a lot of District 6 schools where this is almost a home meet for us.”
State College boys’ coach Dave Felice admitted that it was a longer ride for his team, but it didn’t seem to dull the Little Lions performance. State College edged Altoona by a point in the team contest.
“We were used to it being practically in our back yard,” Felice said. “It was a very good course and a very fast course, one of the fastest we’ve been on all year long. I think the guys really enjoyed it. We had a lot of kids run personal bests today.”
The changeover to the western course may not be a long-term one. The plans in the Forest Hills School District call for the middle and high schools to merge the current middle school be demolished and the land sold.
“We are locked into District 6 for two years, with today and next year,” Gironda said. “After that we just don’t know.”