The Internet Home of Track & Field

September 25, 1999 - McAlpine Park, Charlotte NC
first Great American Cross Country Festival

Bingham UT girls rout Saratoga NY and other top teams to lay claim as best ever.

by John Dye

Rick Hill had a dream. As a successful businessman and trackdad, he was used to having his dreams fulfilled. So he gave this one a shot -- bring the best cross country teams in American together on one field to run face to face.

Until now, the question of who were the best teams in America was left up to Marc Bloom's rankings in The Harrier magazine. Except for an occasional cross country visitor at the Manhattan Invitational in New York, teams rarely travelled out of their region to face top competition. Now, a bunch of nationally ranked teams would converge on the lightning fast course at McAlpine Park, home of the Foot Locker South regional. Rick Hill didn't get them all, but he got most of the perennial national powers in The Harrier rankings, including 20 defending state champions from around the country.

From the pre-race cookout under a gorgeous Carolina moon to the last race on Saturday, it was a magical weekend. Fittingly, it was a "Cinderella" team that won the biggest honors. Bingham UT, led by the mercurial Zeigle twins, toppled the queen of US girls cross country, Saratoga NY, ranked US#1 by The Harrier in four of the previous six years.

Bingham didn't just win. They dominated, placing 2-3-10-11-19-28-33. Bingham's first four finished before anyone else's #2. They would have still won if they eliminated their 4th and 5th runners and scored their 6th and 7th runners. Bingham's girls: Laura Zeigle, Jackie Zeigle, Lisa Paxton, Charity Catmull, Jessica Winters, Stacie Grover and Angie Campbell. Their coach: Jeff Arbogast.

High school track guru Doug Speck compared Bingham to Polly Plumer's University Irvine CA team as the historic standard and declared Bingham better.

In the boys race, The Woodlands TX emerged as best of a balanced field of 5 of the top 8 ranked teams. Individual winners were Alan Webb VA and Felicia Guliford NM.

Speck called it "the most significant day in the history of US high school cross country . . . "
"Great day, great course, great hospitality, great meet management, great athletes--all that a good fan of the sport could ask for!"

Except . . . a true national championship would have all the top teams and it would take place at the end of the season.  For that, we would have to wait for the Nike Team Nationals 5 years later. 

TOMORROW: December 4, 2004 - first Nike Team Nationals - Saratoga NY girls and York IL boys confirm perennial US#1 ranking


DyeStat coverage of first Great American http://www.dyestat.com/9xc/us/greatam/index.htm
(Sorry, the photos have been lost in cyberspace with the server changes over the years.)

Rick Hill's Field of Dreams, by Doug Speck http://www.dyestat.com/9xc/us/greatam/speck-greatam.html

Magic Moments Index