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Cross country team travels from Fort Wayne, Ind., for road work

by Mike Nutter

SPORTS WRITER

CLARKSBURG -- Just how far will Mike Engler go to prepare his girls cross country team for their season? About 400 miles.

Engler is the coach at North Side High School in Fort Wayne, Ind. His team officially starts its season Monday, and seven members of the team made the trip to Clarksburg for the Greater Clarksburg 10K. Engler said he found out about the race from an Internet site. The race seemed challenging and the field competitive, so North Side opted for one final road trip of the summer.

"It seemed like a very high quality race," Engler said. "It's very scenic country, so it just seemed like it would make for a neat trip."

Engler and the rest of his team were aware of the elite international runners. However, there was one thing they didn't prepare for.

"We drove over the course before the race and I was like 'Oh goodness, look at those hills,'" Julie Jackson, a 15-year-old sophomore, said. "I thought I was dying on some of those hills. It was going really slow but then coming down hill it was like 'zoom.'

"We race on one course that has something like a hill, and it has just one little hill and that's it. But there's nothing like this, not at all."

Following the race, all the members of the team met with former Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills.

n HIGH PRAISE: The Greater Clarksburg 10K has put itself on the road racing map in just five years. Mills sees it getting even bigger.

"I live in California and heard about it, but really, from it's first race, it's gotten global recognition," Mills said. "This is an exceptionally deep and talented field of runners they've been able to assemble here. I truly feel that with the combination of the competition, the depth of the runners and the friendliness of the atmosphere of the race, they've got one of the finest races in the country."

Mills won the 1964 gold in the 10,000 meter run, the last and only American to accomplish the feat.

However, he feels the United States can step up and compete with the rest of the international field, including the Kenyan runners.

"Oh, yeah. I think you'll see it done," Mills said. "So much has changed since (1964) in terms of the technology. For some reason, America runners thought the idea of long, slow distance running, so we produced slow distance runners.

"Now, we're finding a whole new group of young men and particularly a group of young women who are speed training and muscle training. I think you'll see a women compete at that high of level first, but I think you'll see U.S. men there, too."

n NO SHOWS: Two of the race favorites, defending champion Reuben Cheruiyot and John Korir, both of Kenya, were scheduled to participate in this year's 10K. Both however didn't make the field for the 8:30 a.m. start.

Korir, last weekend's Bix 7 winner in Iowa, withdrew due to leg problems. Also, defending master's champion, Andrew Masai, was signed up, but dropped out Friday.

n WHEN TO WATCH: Portions of the Greater Clarksburg 10K can be seen on ESPN's Saucony Running. The show featuring the Clarksburg 10K is scheduled to air Aug. 27 at 1:30 p.m. and Sept. 1 at 5 a.m.

n CORPORATE WINNER: Dominion Resources Team 1 won the corporate competition. Team members were Ron Huffman, Jim Cummings, Mike Allman, Mark Hamilton and Ben Hardesty.

The Steptoe & Johnson team finished second.

n CINCI AWARD: For the second straight, Lou Lodovico of Ellwood City, Pa. was honored with the Lou Cinci Award for the event's oldest finisher.

The award is in the honor of Cinci, who ran and completed the first three Greater Clarksburg 10K in his late 80s.

n 630 AGAIN: For the second straight year, the race had 630 participants complete the race.

In 1998, 764 runners finished with the race, while 760 crossed the tape in '99.

n TRIPLE CROWN IN THE WORKS: Race chairman Larry Mazza said the Greater Clarksburg 10K, the City of Pittsburgh Great Race and the CVS Pharmacy Cleveland 10K are cross advertising between the three races.

The main goal is to set a triple crown with added prize money to a person who can win all three races.

Mazza said Pittsburgh sends out more than 100,000 applications, while Cleveland sends out 80,000 and Clarksburg 20,000.

"It would give people a chance to get out of West Virginia to run a race, and for ones to come to West Virginia," Mazza said.

The only holdback for the races' triple crown is a major sponsor for prize money.

"If we can get a sponsor, it will be pretty unique," Mazza said. "There are no other races of this magnitude doing something like that, and that's what we're dreaming about."

Assistant sports editor Danny Carpenter contributed to this story.

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