TRAVERSE CITY — When Traverse City Central athletic director Cody Inglis applied to host four cross country regionals here, he had one site in mind that could handle the volume.
Grand Traverse Resort and Spa.
“When we approached Resort officials they were fired up about it,” Inglis said.
On Saturday, Central and the Resort will partner in welcoming 122 teams and about 850 runners in what will be a first in northern Michigan — a day-long cross country regional event that brings together all four divisions.
Benzie Central previously hosted regionals for Divisions II, III and IV, but this will be the first time a Division I regional has been held in the north.
“We jumped at the chance when the MHSAA said to us, ‘Hey, we would like to give you the opportunity if you want because you’ve always had to travel for regionals,’” Inglis said.
Most of the course will be on Spruce Run, one of three golf courses at the Resort. The start and finish lines are off Lautner Road.
Paul Galligan, director of golf courses and ground maintenance at the Resort, started laying out the initial course a year ago. Galligan has a son who ran cross country at Elk Rapids and Kalamazoo College — and he’s observed races on golf courses — so he had an idea what was needed.
Galligan said once the event was secured, he met with Inglis and took him on a tour of his proposed layout.
“I said, ‘This is what we can provide. Will it work?’” Galligan recalled.
“I still remember that cold golf cart ride last November,” Inglis said. “Paul had a tentative course, what he was thinking. Since then, Paul has worked closely with John (Central boys coach John Lober) and Lisa (girls coach Lisa Taylor) in tightening up that course, changing some things, using some natural barriers. It’s a beautiful course.
“Ask any coach or runner, the best courses they run on are the ones on golf courses.”
Lober has been out on it about a half-dozen times.
“Probably 90 percent of what he (Galligan) laid out we’re doing,” Lober said. “We made some tweaks along the way. It will be a good test.”
Galligan said “there’s quite a bit of flat ground” to the course, but still enough terrain changes to challenge runners.
Galligan said he likes the fact that the course is one continuous trail, and that it will not be a lap race.
“There are no repeat areas,” he said.
The course does cut across The Wolverine at a couple locations.
The starting times will mirror those at the state finals, which are Nov. 2 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
The races will start at 10 a.m. — “That gives us latitude in case there’s a frost or freeze,” Inglis said — with the Division IV girls. All Division IV and III races will conclude in the morning. The Division I and II races will be held in the afternoon, concluding with the Division I boys at 3.
The forecast calls for rain right on through the weekend, which could make footing soft.
Central hosted a Division I track regional in the spring. Inglis, who has also worked closely organizing the event with the Resort;’s Kris Ruckle, said the school has just a one-year commitment with the MHSAA for the event.
“This is one of those MHSAA things that I’ve always hesitated even doing because I know how much work goes into it,” Inglis said. “We committed to one year. Like anything, we would wait and see how it went, debrief at the end of the year. They (Resort) have been so good with us. They have been a great partner. We do not want to overstep our bounds.”
The Division I races could be the most competitive of the day. Traverse City Central and Rockford are highly-ranked in boys and girls. Traverse City West will also be in contention to qualify for the state meet. The top three teams advance.