One might figure that scheduling a cross country tournament in the second week of December to be a dicey proposition. After all, Kansas weather is often uncooperative. Thursday's snowfall proved that.
But cross country runners typically are tough enough to handle any kind of weather. With snow still on the ground, they'll get their shot to prove it today as Lawrence serves as host for the 2007 USA Track and Field National Junior Olympics Cross Country Championships at Rim Rock Farm.
Local runners who have braved uncertain elements before and will do so again today include Lawrence High's Dylan Hedges and Free State's Logan Sloan. Also in the mix are the Lawrence Runners club team, a group consisting of Free State runners Kyra Kilwein, Hayley Harrington, Jeanie Reams, Katie and Maggie Burke and Amy Meyers. Several other Lawrence youths also are expected to participate.
To reach this point, participants had to qualify within the 15 USATF regions by placing in the top 20 at regional events.
"This is a true national event," Free State cross country coach and event coordinator Steve Heffernan said. "So it's real true competition among these kids from all over the country."
Opening ceremonies got under way Friday at the Lied Center and included an inspirational talk from former Kansas University and Olympic track legend Billy Mills.
Today's 10-race event begins at 10 a.m. with a three-kilometer bantam race and concludes with the young men's 5K race at 2:30 p.m.
The championship is expected to bring 3,000 athletes and 7,000 total visitors to Lawrence from around the continental United States and as far away as Japan.