Nov 282011

By Naomi Hatch–

The cross-country program was kept alive when voters approved a 1-percent sales tax several years ago; however a year later the program was eliminated due to a lack of participation. Recently, Drew Griffin has been talking with Superintendent Hollis Merrell, and Athletic Director Kevin Standefer about the possibility of bringing back the cross-country program for the 2012 season.

By using a non-profit group, White Mountain Endurance Sports, and through student involvement, private fundraising and volunteer coaching, Griffin and Jeremy Neff believe they can establish a program that will: serve a growing number of interested students and even prepare some to compete collegiately; continue and strengthen the tradition of running in the community; and support and strengthen an already formidable track program by attracting and training longer distance athletes.

“Cross-country was a big program when I came to this school in 1996,” remembers Merrell noting, “Soccer took a lot of that.”

The Board expressed concern that they would have enough students involved. Griffin and Neff said they are doing this mostly through word of mouth.

“I believe a cross country program is going to ultimately come down to how effectively it’s coached,” said Neff, noting they have a lot of expertise and enthusiasm with the volunteer coaches.

Merrell expressed concern that there would be enough students interested and would it encourage other clubs or groups to make a similar request.

“I would be willing to support a decision to bring it back with some conditions such as: including in the motion a statement regarding future groups wanting to do the same thing,” said Merrell in a memo to Board members.

He also felt a decision on what would happen if the fundraising dried up or they lost the volunteers and suggested possibly a minimum number of students.

A fundraiser Turkey Trot is already planned on Thanksgiving morning.

Jonni Lewis appreciated the unique fundraisers, commenting that every way you turn there’s a fundraiser and encouraged them to keep this type of fundraisers.

“I don’t see a lot of costs,” said SUSD Board President Shea Flake.

Merrell said costs would be travel to events and rooms. It would increase as the program grew, but it was felt that would be a good thing.

A motion made by Vice President Ashley Davis to reinstate the program with all funding coming from fundraising and not from the school budget passed unanimously.