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Cross country program OK'd for Greencastle middle school

April 11, 2008|By CHRIS CARTER

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Beginning this fall, students at Greencastle-Antrim Middle School will have the option of running cross country.

The school district approved last week the creation of a program for seventh- and eighth-graders, providing a training ground for those who might want to run in high school.

High school cross country coach Rich Secrest pitched the idea last summer and was told last Friday by athletic director Vicki Ritchey that it had come to fruition.

"This is something I've wanted to try for about a year. It's been a long road and an emotional one," Secrest said. "When I heard it was approved, I was pumped."

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Secrest started the journey by presenting a brief questionnaire to various Pennsylvania coaches asking how to develop a program. He then relayed the information to Ritchey and middle school principal Mark Herman, and it was taken to the school board in the fall.

It was voted on at the April 3 board meeting.

"I didn't anticipate that it would actually take this long," Ritchey said. "Since it's April already, we need to get into things as far as hiring a coach and having some meetings."

Ritchey said the head coaching position has been posted on the district Web site and those interested may send a letter to the district.

Secrest anticipated a close relationship with the person that heads the program.

"I've been trying to call people and generate interest," he said. "Middle school is different - you can't coach them the same way as high school kids. You have to string them along for them to become distance runners."

The program will use the high school cross country course, which measures 5,000 meters (3.1 miles). It will have to be modified for the middle school athletes, who run 3,200 meters (2 miles).

The establishment of a middle school program stemmed from interest created through the Greencastle Flyers - a track and field and cross country club directed by Secrest and open to anyone at least 7-years-old.

Secrest said about 25 kids turned out on a nightly basis for Flyers last fall - the first year cross country has been offered.

The middle school program will run competitively this fall and should become a member of the Mid-Penn Conference by 2010. Scheduling deadlines prohibit the program from immediately entering the conference.

Greencastle-Antrim is the fourth Pennsylvania middle school with a cross country program less than 45 minutes away, according to Secrest. The others are J. Frank Faust Junior High School in Chambersburg, Pa.; Yellow Breeches Middle School in Boiling Springs, Pa., and Big Spring Middle School in Newville, Pa.

When cross country is offered beginning with the 2008-09 school year, it will be one of seven sports at the middle school. Field hockey and football are offered in the fall, basketball and wrestling in the winter, and track and field and volleyball in the spring.

The formation of a soccer program also was discussed at the board meeting last week, but it will not be pursued at this time because of cost restraints. The installation of soccer programs for both boys and girls could cost the district up to $20,000, according to superintendent C. Gregory Hoover.

"I'm sure we will continue to discuss soccer, but this just isn't the time," Hoover said. "I'm not sure when times aren't tough for school finances."

The cross country program is expected to cost about $2,000, saving on expenses by sharing uniforms with the track and field team, by using existing facilities and because of the need to hire only one coach.

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