REEDSVILLE - Many of the "who's who" of scholastic cross country will be in Reedsville Saturday for the 36th annual Big Valley Invitational at Indian Valley Middle School.
The event welcomes runners from 35 different schools in seven of the 12 PIAA districts - a grand total of 798 runners entered in the four different races (JV boys, varsity boys, JV girls and varsity girls). Event planners are also expecting a crowd of over 1,200 people at the race, even though U.S. 322 is likely to be busy with traffic headed toward State College and Penn State's first home football game on the same day.
Not bad for an event that has some humble beginnings.
Sentinel file photo
Indian Valley’s Mark Yoder, right, races a pack of runners to the finish line at last year’s Big Valley Invitational in Reedsville. This year’s event in the 36th running of the race and it will be Saturday at the Indian Valley Middle School course in Reedsville.
The meet began with what meet director Bill Solava called "just family and friends" in 1973. But this year's race welcomes back 12 of the top 20 finishers a year ago from both the varsity girls and boys events as well as a host of other quality runners.
"We've worked hard as far as the quality of people that are working the meet," Solava said. "We started off with six teams long ago and we got tired of running all over the state and thought 'Why not bring them here?'"
On the girls side, Lewisburg - a perrenial power in Class AA - will be a favorite for its third straight team title. The Green Dragons return five of their top seven harriers from a season ago, including junior Shannon Wright, who medaled here a year ago.
What: 36th Big Valley Invitational
When: Saturday; first race is at 9:30 a.m.
Where: Indian Valley Middle School, Reedsville
Also among the favorites individually is Mount Union senior Katrina Woods, who came home ninth in last season's race.
"The girls field should be strong," Solava said. "There's a large number of those girls that were in states last year. That varsity girls race might be the race of the day."
The boys race should be a good one as well. Altoona may be the team to beat as it - like the Lewisburg girls - returns five of its top seven from 2008, including four medalists from a year ago. Junior Wade Endress and seniors Jordan Leiberman, Chris Fischer and Mike Hart will look to push the Mountain Lions to a win while taking home hardware for the second straight year.
One of the best local boys in the race is from the host school - Indian Valley senior Alex Monroe, who claimed a spot in the top 20 last year.
"If the runners win a medal at the BVI, in my opinion, they have a 50-50 chance to win one at states," Solava said. "If you win one, you at least know you're in the hunt for states."
The Reedsville course allows for some of the best viewing of a cross country race anywhere, giving fans a chance to not only see some of the state's top runners compete, but also follow most of the action.
"The race is 3.1 miles and if you move a couple of hundred yards, you can probably see 2.5 miles of the race," Solava said. "At this (course), you can acutally see and the race starts in the center where all the fans are, so it makes it a great place to watch."
The Rotary Club of Lewistown is also assisting in the staging of the event, providing plenty of manpower, which Solava counts on heavily saying "I don't know if we could do it without them."
There is no admission to the race, which gets underway at 9:30 a.m. with the junior varsity boys race. The varsity girls begin at 10 a.m., the varsity boys at 10:35 a.m. and the junior varsity girls at 11:10 a.m. Awards will be handed out beginning at noon.