After 26 years, it was time to say goodbye to Scioto Downs.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association Board of Directors met Aug. 4 in Columbus and voted unanimously to move the 2011 cross country state finals to National Trail Raceway in Hebron, (20 miles east of Columbus, from Scioto Downs, just south of Columbus.
During its time, Scioto Downs attracted more than 10,000 spectators each season. This year's state championships - Divisions I through III (boys and girls) will be Nov. 5.
In June, Gov. John Kasich approved a deal where slot machines would be installed at seven horse racetracks, including Scioto Downs. The OHSAA, in many instances, has been opposed to live gambling.
State cross country meet manager Terry Oehrtman added construction to accommodate the new slots around Scioto Downs, which started in early August, also prevented this year's meet from being at the racetrack.
"The GM at National Trail (Jim Layton) is doing a miraculous job just getting set up," Oehrtman said. "Both sites have been easy to work with. People of Scioto regret not being able to host this year."
National Trail Raceway - an NHRA dragstrip east of Columbus - should have the course completed by next month, Oehrtman said. After that, he said the course map will be posted on OHSAA.org.
Oehrtman said at National Trail Raceway there are bleachers which seat 3,000 that face away from the start and bleachers of 5,000 seating that face toward. He said 90 percent of the course should be visible.
"Like any cross country course, you have to find which view is more advantageous for you and move around the course," Oehrtman said. "There are less crowd restrictions here than there was at Scioto Downs.
"The finish is much more crowd friendly than at Scioto Downs, closer to the stadium."
McDonald boys coach Chris Rupe is familiar with the state meet. The Blue Devils took second in Division III last season.
"I don't know how things will turn out, but I plan to get our guys and girls ready for the new site, if indeed we run well enough to make it to state," said Rupe, whose team won state in 1999, 2001 and '04 at Scioto Downs. "If we do make it, we relish the challenge of going up against the rest of Ohio on a new course.
"We will do all we can to get ready for a new venue."
Maplewood junior Wyatt Hartman said he's looking forward to the new course.
"Personally, I think it's a good idea and it will be nice to get a fresh new place to run," he said. "I've never ran very well at Scioto and I'm not the biggest fan of the course. So, I'm interested to see what the new one will be like."
McDonald senior runner Kyle Joynes has his memories.
"Well, ever since I started running, all the great stories I've ever heard about were down at Scioto," Joynes said. "After the last couple years that I've been able to go down to state and be there, it's been awesome. So it's kind of a bummer to have it changed."
The new course will be flatter, Oehrtman said.
"The topography is more flat than it was at Scioto Downs, but it will be just as challenging,"?he said.
"They have 300 acres and we will able to pick and choose to make the best course and as spectator-friendly as possible."