A Run With a View
CSU, Chico cross country team breaks in new Forebay Aquatics Center course
Attendees of CSU, Chico cross country meets are literally enjoying a new perspective on the talented Wildcat runners at the recently completed Forebay Aquatics Center course. The new course, located in Oroville within the North Forebay Recreation Area at Garden Drive and Highway 70, offers fans, observers, and spectators a view of nearly every step of the race.
The cross country team previously hosted races at Butte College or in Bidwell Park. The beautiful natural landscape of Bidwell Park impressed visitors but also made it difficult for spectators to see any of the action, as runners disappeared up hills and behind dramatic rock formations. The scenery at the Forebay course rivals that of Bidwell Park, and the experience for runners and spectators is unparalleled. “The course is a loop layout that is very spectator friendly; the surface is mostly grass, gravel, and dirt; and the backdrop is beautiful,” said coach Gary Towne.
The new course covers a 1.4-mile loop. The men run 10 kilometers, essentially four loops, and the women run 6 kilometers—two big loops and two smaller 1/4-mile loops. The team christened the new course on September 9 when they hosted the Chico Invitational, and they and everyone in attendance loved the experience, said Towne: “The new loop layout really brought the fans into the races. Or perhaps it brought the race to the fans. Either way, it was a great setting.”
November 4 brought the additional excitement of hosting a championship event, the 2006 NCAA Division II Cross Country West Regional, an event in which the CSU, Chico men’s and women’s squads have enjoyed winning streaks. “In this year’s event, as many as 21 women’s teams and 16 men’s teams are competing for the opportunity to advance to the National Championships in Florida,” said Towne. The men’s squad has won the West Regional for the past four seasons, and the women’s for the past three. These victories were on the road, and Towne said this year’s event was a great chance “to show our home fans what we’ve been doing all these years in faraway places … [and] to show the rest of the region how amazing our alumni and fan base really is.”
The fan base has a lot to cheer about this year. Twenty-four of twenty-five men are returning from the Chico State team that finished third at the 2005 NCAA Division II Cross Country National Championships. “This year’s men’s squad has already beaten Cal Berkeley, University of Washington, Washington State, and numerous other big Division I programs,” said Towne. In October, the men’s squad was ranked No. 2 in the nation in Division II by a national poll released by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
The women’s squad faced the challenge this year of establishing its own identity after graduating many of the top runners from last year’s squad, which took fourth at the NCAA meet. “But,” Towne said, “things have been good so far, and the women’s squad is ranked 11th nationally and second in region going into the West Regional.”
Towne’s greatest hope for the championship season is that his team can handle the stresses with the confidence of an accomplished group of runners. “I’d like to look back at the coming meets years from now and know we did a great job as a whole of maximizing the work that we put in,” he said. “What’s most important to me is that as a whole we run as well as we can.”
And for those of us who hope to catch a glimpse of CSU, Chico’s talented runners, the new Forebay Aquatic Center course provides the perfect view.
Men’s cross country team wins regional title
Chico State’s men’s cross country team took first place at the Nov. 4 West Regional Championships at the Forebay Aquatics Center course. The women took fourth, but were only 10 points from winning it, “only a matter of a few people passing a few other people,” according to coach Gary Towne. Both teams qualified for the NCAA Division II National Championships, Nov. 18 in Pensacola, Florida. The men will go into the nationals ranked third; the women are ranked tenth.