SURGOINSVILLE — School and county officials agree that a proposed 5K cross country course at the Phipps Bend Industrial Park might put Hawkins County on the map as far as having among the most desirable running competition venues in Tennessee.
Recently Volunteer High School’s new track and cross country coach Jim Ailshie took a horseback ride along Phipps Bend’s floodplain with Hawkins County Board of Education Chairman Chris Christian.
Afterwards, Ailshie mapped out a proposed 5K cross country course utilizing floodplain areas that don’t interfere with existing industry.
On Thursday, Ailshie presented that map to the Hawkins County Industrial Development Board, seeking the IDB’s blessing to host a regional cross country meet there Oct. 1.
Although the IDB gave its informal approval Thursday, the final decision will be made by the Phipps Bend Joint Venture Committee — which is comprised of representatives from Hawkins County and Kingsport.
Ailshie told the IDB Thursday the course would utilize existing dirt roads and trails that would require some bush-hogging.
“In order for us to have a successful cross country program, I would like to see if we can develop a home cross country course, not only for Volunteer High School ... but also for middle schools and Cherokee High School,” Ailshie told the IDB. “It’s in a great location. I will say that Kingsport doesn’t have a course, although Sullivan North does host a race. There’s a real need for this.”
He added, “For a runner, you can run along the river. It’s absolutely beautiful. ... We have a real opportunity here, not only to help our students and runners at Volunteer High School and other schools, but also our entire community.”
The proposed 2.9 mile course starts at the Tennessee Technology Center, a location which is wide enough to accommodate a full starting field. Eventually the course would funnel into an old dirt road and trail along the Holston River.
Part of the course would need to be bush-hogged, and there’s another old road that hasn’t been used for years that would have to be bush-hogged as well.
Ailshie said the course could be lengthened to 3.1 miles, which would be equivalent to 5K.
“I think we could have a really, really good cross country course, and it would bring a lot of people to the area who haven’t been exposed to Phipps Bend,” he added.
IDB Chairman Larry Elkins said he didn’t foresee a problem with the cross country course being approved as long as the school showed proof of liability insurance and it didn’t interfere with any industrial projects.
“All of this (course) except for just a little bit is in the wetlands area,” Elkins said. “It’s not out on any of the paved streets or anything like that.”
Ailshie said the regional meet he’s planning is tentatively set for the morning of Oct. 1 and should attract at least 300 runners.
The course likely won’t be used for team practice until next year because Ailshie needs to acquire a CDL to drive the runners to Phipps Bend in a bus.
Christian, who supplied the horse for the tour, said an enhanced cross country program opens student-athletes up to opportunities for college scholarships. The proposed Phipps Bend course would also provide great positive exposure to the industrial park and Hawkins County, Christian said.
“I think there’s a lot of potential at Phipps Bend to expose our park for different uses,” Christian said. “Just utilizing one small section along the river we could put in a two-mile course, a three-mile course, and it’s all ideal for competition running. The scenery is beautiful, and the course wouldn’t interfere with existing industry. I think this course will really put Hawkins County on the map as far as being among the most desirable cross country meets in Tennessee.”