Carrboro’s harriers are no longer homeless.
For years, the Jaguars have been one of the premier cross-country programs in North Carolina. The women have won four straight N.C. High School Athletics Association championships, while the men, champions in 2010, consistently finished in the top five every year.
But they’ve never had a place to call home, until this year.
With the snip of scissors to cut a ribbon on the Jaguar Stadium field, Carrboro coach Mimi O’Grady opened Tuesday’s meet, ceremonially the first home meet for the Jaguars.
“This program is 7 years old, and this team has never been able to run in front of the student body here before,” O’Grady said as the male runners took off on the first leg of the meet.
Speaking to the assembled crowd of students, parents and other fans before the start of Tuesday’s races, O’Grady thanked Carrboro runner James Stonecypher, who proposed construction of a home course to Carrboro High School Athletics Director April Ross – one day before O’Grady walked into Ross’s office with the same idea.
Carrboro previously hosted a handful of “home” meets at Anderson Community Park, requiring a 3.5-mile trip by athletes just to get started.
“I really like this new course,” said Carrboro runner Maysa Araba. “It’s going to be nice not to have to go on a long bus ride to be able to run in a meet.”
Stonecypher conceived of the course as his Eagle Scout service project. Clearing the course’s wooded portion of leaves, tree limbs and rocks was physically the biggest portion of Stonecypher’s job, and required help from virtually all of the Carrboro teammates and their families.
“Of all the things I needed to do, this Eagle project was the toughest, but it also had the greatest rewards for me,” he said.
Stonecypher spent weeks working with others just getting started, like getting John Wilson to survey the land around the campus, ensuring that all of the course stayed on the high school’s property and that it measured the necessary 5,000 meters to meet NCHSAA standards.
Typical of most North Carolina high school courses, Carrboro’s home course comprises two circuits of 2,500 meters. Runners start and finish in the stadium, looping around the football practice field, the east and north edges of the school and into the neighboring woods. The runners have about a 500-meter climb back to the stadium, most of it up a wooded path.
“It’s hard; it’s not a fast course,” O’Grady said. “I don’t expect a lot of records to be set here.”
Carrboro’s Tomiwa Olufolabi, the first runner in Tuesday, finished in 17:49:00, 30 seconds over his personal best this season.
“I still love the feel of the course. The woods are very nice,” Olufolabi said. “Everyone did a fantastic job building it. I’m excited Carrboro runners will get to use it for years and years.”
Carrboro teammates James Jushchuk (18:00) Quique Guerra (18:32), Khalid Williams (19:25) and Nathan Andress (19:34) as the Jaguars swept the top spots from Reidsville and Bartlett Yancey.
With Araba resting after a sixth-place finish in the previous weekend’s elite Wendy’s Invitational, Helen Morken of Carrboro (20:14) won Tuesday’s girls meet and Natalie Richardson (22:09) was second. Kelsey McKinney of Reidsville (22:26) was third, followed in by Carrboro’s Claire Scanga (22:43), Kara Stonecypher (23:03) and Lindsayann Heath (23:30) in places four through six.