For 19 straight years, the Southern Connecticut Conference held its annual cross country championships at Hammonasset State Park in Madison. It’s one of the few places in the area that can host approximately 1,000 runners, plus hundreds of spectators.
When the league found out at last year’s meet that Hammonasset would not be available this year due to construction, another site had to be found.
So East Shore Park in New Haven becomes the third site in league history to host the SCC cross country meet, which will be held Thursday. Orange Junior High School held the meet the first three years (1994-96) of the league.
“It’s all about logistics,” SCC commissioner Al Carbone said. “You need a site that can hold about 1,000 runners (for six races), 25 buses, cars for parking and spectators. It’s not just the 3.1-mile course. Hammonasset has that huge parking lot for the beach. We even bantered around Wickham Park (in Manchester). East Shore is great for the league, a central location.”
Carbone walked East Shore with Guilford cross country coach Jim Ford, school athletic director Jake Jarvis, the league coordinator for cross country, and Thom Jacobs, the former assistant Amity coach who owns Payne Corner Timing, which does the timing annually for the meet. Once the league got the go-ahead from the New Haven Park and Recreation Department, then the course could be set up for the 5K.
Ford liked what he saw as well.
“I went out last winter to East Shore and to Lighthouse Park,” Ford said. “I went out to look them over. I recommended that East Shore was better than Lighthouse Park and bigger than the (Guilford) fair grounds.”
Now in his 39th year coaching cross country, Ford recalled only being at East Shore for a meet one previous time.
“It’s got nice acreage, it’s highly accessible and it can accommodate the 1,000 runners and 300-500 spectators and the buses,” Ford said. “It’s really a nice park. I’m cautiously optimistic it can be a stellar event.”
Carbone said it’s likely the meet will return to Hammonasset, but does like having another option on hand.
“We’ve been lucky to run the event at just three different locations,” Carbone said. “It’s one of our biggest events.”
Amity will be looking to defend both the boys and girls team championships. Andrew Thompson of Fairfield Prep is back to defend his individual title while Mercy’s Bridgid Selfors finished second to teammate Mackenzie Pias last year.
The varsity girls race begins at 1:40 p.m. and the varsity boys is set to start at 3 p.m.