Great American, Year 3
by John Dye
SAN FRANCISCO 9/8/01 -- This is the third year of the Great American,
so we asked Rick Hill to give us a status report on his great adventure
as we stood in Golden Gate Park waiting for the first race of the
Great Race of the Great Bay.
The Charlotte NC shopping center developer shook up the high school
cross country scene mightily 2 years ago with the first Great American
Cross Country Festival. For the first time, most of the top ranked
teams from across the country would meet face to face. The results
of the Great American have figured prominently in the final team
rankings in The Harrier magazine.
The Charlotte meet, which has its third running September 22, is
doubling in size every year, Hill said. There were 1,800 runners
the first year and 3,100 in 2000. This year, the meet will draw
an amazing 7,000 runners and 900 teams from 41 states for 39 races.
The first year there were 18 teams in the Open races; this year
there will be 70.
After last year's meet, Hill decided he had to make a choice between
his business and cross country. Cross country won. He sold his business
and announced plans to add meets in San Francisco and New York.
He picked up additional sponsorship from Nike and named the series
the Nike Great Races of America.
Expanding to the metropolitan cities brought new political challenges,
and the New York meet was dropped. But San Francisco succeeded,
and Hill gave a large measure of credit to the host high school,
Lowell High School of San Francisco.
Hill was pleased with the result in San Francisco. "We have
more runners than the first year in Charlotte," Hill said,
"and the two premier programs in the country in Mountan View
and Saratoga." Some 2,500 runners from 13 states made their
way to the sylvan setting of Golden Gate Park.
Will there be new sites next year?
"No. We are going to concentrate on growing San Francisco and
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