For the first time in six years, the USA Track & Field National Junior Olympics Cross Country Championships will return to Veterans Park in Hoover.
The event last took place there in 2010. This year’s event is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 10, and is expected to draw 2,600 to 3,000 athletes and more than 10,000 total attendees, including coaches, families and fans.
While the event is held on Saturday, many of the participants and their families will arrive Thursday and stay through the weekend, bringing an economic boost to the Hoover and Shelby County area.
“When we hosted it in 2010, we had over 250 participants from all 50 states,” said Mary Birdwell, a representative from USATF of Alabama. “It was very successful. The booster clubs from Spain Park and Hoover High School and a few other schools helped us with so we could have a lot of volunteers. It was a good meet, and we had good publicity for our area. We received a lot of good comments after it was over.”
The championship event rotates around different areas of the country, from the East to the central part of the country to the West. In 1999, it was held in Mobile, and then it came to Shelby County in 2010.
The event is open to any youth ages 7-18, and the runners are divided into five age groups, including a new age group for those who are 7 or 8. Races range from a 2K for the youngest runners to a 5K for the oldest group.
Registration costs $8, plus $20 for a USATF membership card. The membership card is good for a year and allows participation in the summer race also. Runners can compete as an individual or with a track club.
USATF of Alabama is partnering again with the city of Hoover, Shelby County and the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau to bring the national championships back to Hoover. When the announcement came in 2014 that the event would be back at Veterans Park, Hoover Mayor Gary Ivey said the city was proud to be chosen as host.
“We look forward to welcoming the participants, staff and fans to the city for this prestigious event that will feature some of the most talented junior athletes in the nation,” Ivey said. “Our staff will work hard with the local organizing committee to ensure this is a memorable experience for both the athletes and attendees.”
Birdwell said the finishing times for the championship races usually are outstanding. “If they want to run against some good athletes, this is a good meet,” she said.
Along with the national championship, the regional championship for Alabama runners will also take place at Veterans Park on Nov. 19. To keep up with information and registration, visit http://al.usatf.org/.