Pretty much everyone agrees that the new Logan County Area Technology Center (ATC), which will be built on the campus of Logan County High School will be a great boon for local education, but progress always comes at a price.
In addition to the estimated $20 million it will cost to build the new ATC, the Logan County High School cross country team will also be making a sacrifice because the new state of the art building will sit right on top of the team’s home course.
“It was pretty upsetting to hear that we’d be losing our course,” said LCHS senior runner Thomas Lyne. “I’ve been running on that course since I was in sixth grade and I have a lot of great memories on it.”
Cross country coach Joe Dan Laster, who is in his second year of leading the program he once ran for, can relate.
“I called it our home because there is no other way to properly describe it,” Laster said. “For the past 15-plus years the LCXC team has practiced on these fields. Not just sometimes, but every day from the start of school to the beginning of November. From my sophomore year to my senior year I ran all over the fields of the cross country course. It was during this time I discovered a lot about life and about myself. I learned perseverance like no other sport could teach.”
Laster said running those fields also taught him the meaning of hard work.
“I also got to experience being so close to my teammates that it was as if we were one big diverse family. I got to experience what it was like to have and live out a dream when my teammates and I qualified for the state meet as a team” he said. “I also experienced many times what it was like to have the thrill of an all-out effort. After high school I would come back and visit the team because I truly missed being there. Through college if I ever needed anywhere to clear my head I’d come to the course late at night and sit where the finish line is. There is something special about those fields. And many people think the same. Now I am the coach of this team that I love. This team and this sport has been – and still is – such an instrumental part of my life and has played a major role in defining who I am as a person.”
For now, it is unclear where the team will build a new course once construction on the ATC begins in full.
Logan County schools superintendent Paul Mullins says that he will make sure that the cross country team will have a place to practice and hold meets. He’s just not sure where that will be yet.
“We will be sure and take care of our cross country runners,” Mullins said.
Wherever the new course is, though, it won’t be quite the same as the original.
“I am going to miss our hill,” said senior runner Meredith Johnson. “When we would host meets, I would see some of the best runners in the region have to walk going up the hill. That always made me feel good because it was part of our course.”
Until they get a new course, the cross country team is also losing its biggest source of revenue.
Last year, Logan County hosted a super regional meet where runners in Class A, Class 2A and Class 3A compete to qualify for the state meet.
“With us hosting this meet a lot of teams were wanting to come to run at our other meets,” Laster said.
Those meets include the Logan County Cougar Run, a meet that we have hosted the first weekend of October for over 10 years, and the Western Kentucky Meet of Champions.
“At both meets we had 20-plus teams register their runners for the different races – varsity, middle school and elementary school,” Laster said. ” Each race turned about a $2,000 to $3,000 dollar profit that went directly back in the cross country account.”
The cross country program at LCHS is one of the most successful athletic programs in the school.
The cross country team has sent at least one person to the state meet every year since the 2007 season. For nine years Logan has been represented at the highest level of competition. During those nine years there has been six different teams qualify for the state meet, one regional runner up team, two regional championship teams, a top five team finish at the state meet and an individual second place finish.
“The cross country fields were our spot – our home,” Laster said. “It’s been home to a lot of athletes through the years trying to figure out where they belonged. I am a product of the cross country team and of those fields. And now those fields are about to be gone. I can’t speak for all that have bled, sweat, and cried on that course, but I feel like I am losing a little piece of myself when the construction begins. I tell my athletes frequently, I will always be who they need me to be. That can be motivator, instructor, a shoulder to cry on, or a body to lean on. I feel like I need to be their voice in this situation. This sport teaches us how to keep moving forward despite what life throws at us. So this team will do just that, we will keep moving and we will find a way.”
To contact OJ Stapleton, email email@example.com or call 270-726-8394.