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Perry Central has one of the top boys cross country teams in the state, ranked 23rd by IndianaRunner.com last week.
But Perry Central fans won’t get to see this team perform at home this year.
For several years the Commodores have hosted the Perry-Spencer invitational, but this year it will be for junior high teams only, as all the varsity teams in those two counties have decided not to compete that day.
That invitational was scheduled Sept. 8 and would have been Perry Central’s third meet in six days, following major invitationals at North Harrison at Martinsville.
Other area teams had similar heavy schedules around that time. Tell City boys coach Chris Hollinden had said the last couple of years that his team used the Perry-Spencer invitational as basically a practice run to keep from wearing the runners’ legs out.
But it’s more than busy schedules that made area coaches disinclined to run in this meet. The bottom line was most coaches didn’t consider this meet big enough any more.
Cannelton usually doesn’t have enough runners for a complete team in boys or girls cross country. And last year South Spencer also did not have a girls team.
That left just three teams in the girls race—Perry Central, Tell City and Heritage Hills—and four in the boys race.
As recently as 1993 a lot of cross country teams ran about as many dual or triangular meets as they did big invitationals.
But since then meets with fewer than seven teams have become as obsolete as typewriters or knobs on television sets.
One coach tried to explain to me a couple of years ago that multi-team meets were more exciting than ones with just two or three teams. But personally I don’t understand why.
Some meets have more than 20 teams, which makes it hard for fans to even find their team’s runners in the pack as they come running past them.
And most of the time fans—and even coaches and runners—don’t know where their teams have placed in the meet when it is over. They have to wait until several minutes later when the scores are tabulated and announced.
Can you imagine going to a basketball or football game and not knowing whether your team has won or lost when the final buzzer sounds?
For years Tell City and Daviess County were among the best cross country teams in southern Indiana and western Kentucky, respectively, and they faced each other in an exciting dual meet each year through 1992.
It was easy to see the runners in those races, and when they ended it was easy enough to tell who won.
Perry Central and Tell City are now among the best boys teams in southwestern Indiana—they placed first and second in the 10-team Jasper sectional last year and are favored to do so again. So I think a dual meet between them would be exciting for fans to watch. It would be much easier to see runners from the opposing teams paired up against each other.
But don’t hold your breath until that happens.
In this invitationals-only age, most teams host only one regular-season meet each year.
If Perry Central wants to let its teams compete at home again, it will have to begin hosting a bigger invitational and probably find a new date for it.
That’s easier said than done with an increasingly crowded field of invitationals in southwestern Indiana. But it can be done. Forest Park just added a new one at the start of this season. And Tell City was able to revive its Lincoln Trail Invitational in 2007 after a 12-year absence, though it has not yet built back up to the size it was previously.
That Lincoln Trail meet will be the only varsity one in Perry County this year.