I have been a part of Louisiana high school cross-country for over 25 years. One of the highlights of our season is trips to Highland Road Park in Baton Rouge for the big races. This is “sacred ground” to me and to our veteran runners. We all have too-numerous-to-count “war stories” of our races there.
It would be a sad — very sad — thing if Highland Road Park was made not available for cross-country running.
It seems to me the economic impact alone would dictate that this would never be allowed to happen. Our team usually makes three trips per season to Highland Road Park. We leave at 4:30 a.m. (and worry about parking space by the way), run our races and return home. Before we leave town, we eat probably 75 lunches, and many people stick around to shop — many a prom dress has been bought by our runners in Baton Rouge.
That’s a lot of energy I’m not sure we’d spend to run somewhere other than Highland Road Park. It’s the only place we’ve ever run in Baton Rouge.
The four major cross-country meets at Highland Road Park attract well over 100 out-of-town schools to Baton Rouge every season. Conservatively assume 20 runners and 10 parents (we bring over 30 runners and at least 40 parents) show up for each. That’s thousands of meals, much shopping and more than a few hotel stays.
I have heard there are plans to “improve” Highland Road Park. I — and I’m sure many, many others — would hope that the coming changes take into account providing for cross-country to continue its very rich tradition there.
Wally Smith, teacher and coach
Holy Savior Menard High School