Bob Huelsman
Bob Huelsman

Bob Huelsman is a former high school teacher, coach and administrator, serving for more than three decades at Covington High School, in Miami County. In his 13 years as head basketball coach at Covington, Huelsman won 228 games and five times guided the Buccaneers to the regional round of the state tournament. Currently, he serves as the associate athletic director at Newton High School, and treasurer for the Southwest District Athletic Board. A former member of the Ohio High School Athletic Association Board of Control, Huelsman’s broad background in athletic administration has won the respect of his peers statewide.


Apparently, running has never been so popular.  Cross country running is enjoying “boom” times, with an new venue announced for the 2011 OHSAA state meet.

Since Pheidippides, the Athenian courier, ran approximately 26 miles from the plains of Marathon to Athens in 490 B.C., cross country and marathon running is still in vogue today.

Parents and the runners themselves, sometimes are the only people that actually ever see a race.  Distance running is not spectator friendly, but is widely enjoyed by many, and can truly be a life-long sport.

Although distance running is over 2000 years old, women never competed in the Olympic marathon until 1984, when American Joan Benoit won in Los Angeles (starting at Santa Monica College Stadium-finishing in the Los Angeles Coliseum) with a time of 2:24:52.

Many of you remember Joan in her white painter’s hat, entering the coliseum through the tunnel leading into the sunlight in front of 77,000 fans. Norwegian, Grete Waitz, finished second.

The most memorable finish in this race came from the Swiss competitor, Gabriele Andersen-Scheiss, who entered the stadium suffering from heat exhaustion. She staggered onto the track, torso twisted, one arm straight, the other arm limp, one leg stiff, hobbling toward the finish line. She fell into the arms of the medics at the finish line in a time of 2:48:45, which would have won the first five Olympic marathons.

Recently, I attended a CYO Cross Country meet in Cleveland.  Called CYO XC North-Gesu Invitational, it was held in Forest Hills Park, Cleveland Heights.  I was stunned at the number of schools and runners competing.

I hadn’t seen that many parishes represented since my days of attending the server (altar) boys’ picnic at Carthagena.  Every letter of the alphabet was represented there-St. Angela, St. Bridget, St. Charles, St. Leo, St. John, St. Ignatius, and the list could go on.  Forty-five different Catholic based elementary schools and 698 runners.

The one thing missing, if I was to compare this to my boyhood servers’ picnic, were the 5 cent hot dogs.  Those were great, as well as the Minster St. Augustine softball victories over Piqua St. Marys.
Each year thousands of young people from across the counties of the Diocese of Cleveland participate in the athletic programs offered through CYO (Catholic Youth Organization).  At the aforementioned Cross Country Invitational, there were 5 races—one for 7th and 8th grade boys, one for 7th and 8th grade girls, one for 5th and 6th grade boys, one for 5th and 6th grade girls, and one for 3rd and 4th grade boys and girls combined.

These races were well organized, with all times recorded and posted on line quickly. From what I observed, cross country is alive and well!  Someday these young runners may get the opportunity to participate in the OHSAA tournaments.

Throughout the state of Ohio, district cross country is run on Saturday, October 22, regional cross country will be on Saturday, October 29, and the state tournament on Saturday, November 5.  Here in the Southwest, the sectionals are run at the Miami Valley CTC and Voice of America Park, and the regionals are run at Troy Memorial Stadium.

The 83rd Annual Boys and 34th Annual Girls State Cross Country Championships are being run at a brand new site, the Hebron-National Trail Raceway, in Hebron, Ohio.  Scioto Downs, in Columbus, was the site for the last 26 years.  When Scioto Downs permitted slot machines to be placed at the horse racing park, the OHSAA needed to locate to a different venue.

On Saturday, November 5, there will be approximately 220 runners vying to be crowned a champion.  Whether winning the Olympic Marathon or the OHSAA State Cross Country Championship (5000 meters or 3.1 miles), it remains the ultimate accomplishment for a long-distance runner.  The race requires strength, courage, and endurance, and like everything else, a little bit of luck.

Although the first state cross country championship was run in 1928, we need not worry about the future of cross country—it is alive and well.