Ironton XC coaches put together fan friendly course

Published 2:48 am Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tim Thomas and Greg Cronacher have spent the past 30 years coaching cross country and track at Ironton High School. They teach their runners to look for that opening and then to take advantage of it.

That opening for the coaches came with the building of the new city schools and the pair seized the opportunity.

With no place to have a cross country course in the city in the past, the idea surfaced as they surveyed the landscape at the elementary/middle schools area that includes the high school baseball and softball fields along with the junior high football practice field.

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“We looked around for awhile, and then we went there a second time and by accident we saw how we might be able to lay out a course,” said Thomas.

“We thought if we went out to the edge of the ball fields we could do it. We measured one lap, then measured two laps. But then we had to figure out how we would start and finish the race.”

The two recruited the help of Scott Webb and the Ironton maintenance department for help to clear the course. Cronacher and Thomas themselves went out behind the baseball field and cleared some of the area that used to be the elementary school’s science land lab.

“We felt that would break it up with that trail section,” said Thomas. “Over a period of time it came together. We felt we had a course that was fan friendly. We kept the bulk of activity around the bridge area. We got several different viewpoints that helped.”

The course is laid out to circle the ball fields twice and then goes to the front of the schools — the only area that can not be seen — before coming back and ending in the middle of the football field.

Another key to making the course and first annual Tiger Town Cross Country Festival come together last Saturday was the support of the community.

The program got financial assistance from Elite Fitness & Rehab, Attorneys Wolfe and Bentley, Davis Family Dentistry, Awards Plus, Attorneys Delawder and Heald, Next Mile Running Shop (Kyova, Ky., Mall), Creative Financial Services, Dr. Ben Roach, attorney and former Ironton cross country runner Philip J. Heald, and Hurley Insurance.

Overall, Thomas was pleased with the results and support.

“Every course has its drawbacks, but the advantage of our course is it is very spectator friendly and the facility is laid out well for parking, restrooms and team camp areas. It’s one of the few course the fans can see almost the entire race,” said Thomas.

“The parents want to be supportive but usually they just have to wait until their kids finish. This enables our kids to perform at home and the fans to see almost the entire race. It’s something I’ve been working on for the 30 years I’ve been coaching.”

All he needed was an opening.

— Sinatra ––

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.