Utah State XC Championships: Course Preview


The 2013 State Cross Country Championships will be held at Sugar House Park on Wednesday afternoon. Since the course was moved to the current Sugarhouse course, there have been 150 state champions crowned over 5 classifications. 3 Champions who earned their state title on this same course went on to win an NCAA Championship, with more looking to add their name to that list.

Many of the athletes who are entered to race for the state title on Tuesday have experience with the state course, but for those who are new to the course, and for those who would like to do a little pre-race visualization, here is a course preview for Tuesday. It is against the rules for any athlete or team to be on the state course within 2 weeks of the championship, so I hope that having a chance to overview the course will be helpful. 


The course starts out right in the center of Sugarhouse Park in the wide open field area.  The runners will have about 150 yards on the straight away before the course converges through the trees. 


You can see here the narrow gap in the trees that you will be aiming for over the first 150 Meters.


As soon as you're through the trees the course makes a left turn onto the pavement and up the hill. The amount of pavement on the course should not be enough to change what shoes you wear just be aware of the pavement so that when your feet hit the asphalt in the spikes you don't slip. This section of pavement is less than 50 yards long.


Once you've crested the top of the hill you make a gradual left turn as you stay on the grass but parallel to the pavement. This is a long flat section of course where you run about 500 m along the top of the hill. 


The section along the top of the hill is narrow, between shrubs, bushes, trees on one side, and the road on the other. 

At the far west side of the hill you'll turn left again as you go back down a pretty fast downhill, keeping to the outside of the trees. Once at the bottom of the hill you're headed back towards the start line.


You'll be back in the crowds at this point and this section is very loud. You won't have much time to look for your mother because your eyes will be focused on the hill in front of you. Keep your eyes up, as you can see in this picture, some spectators will stand where they shouldn't trying to get a picture, and you don't want to run into anyone. 


This is the biggest hill of the course. It has been where many state champions have separated themselves from the pack. The biggest thing with a hill like this is to just keep driving, even after you've crested the top. 


The hill is about 100 yards from the bottom to the top, maybe even less. it does get fairly steep in the middle, but it is nothing to stress about, just get over it and focus on getting it behind you. 


You make a right turn back around the trees, going down the same hill you came up on the pavement at the beginning. It is right about here that you hit the first mile mark.


As you come around these trees the course sends you back into the mass of people who will be yelling and cheering for their favorite team.  This is the start of another long flat section that sends you past the start line again and out towards the lake. 


You loop counter clockwise around the lake, and head towards the back section of the course where there are a lot less people.


On the back side of the lake the course is narrow with a few little cement crossings. 

As you get to the far side of the lake you'll have a road crossing and then another Hill... This hill isn't very big but it does provide an opportunity for some separation... If it's not part of your race strategy to attack here keep an eye on your opponent as it may be part of their's.

At the top of this section the course again leaves you parallel to the road on a narrow strip of grass

This section is fairly flat, and winds along the road before making a sweeping left turn and doubling back down the hill just below where you just ran. 

This small section runs on a slightly off-camber hillside that shouldn't be too much of an issue but you should watch your line.


At this point in the race you make two very sharp right turns around the parking lot.  this light pole is on the inside of the turn here. 

This is right about the 2 mile mark on the course.

This part of course is very tricky to maintain your pace, with the tight turns and the low tree branches it can be very easy to lose focus.... Try to keep your momentum up and take the turns at the most efficient angle. Don't overthink these turns just get around them as quick as you can and  back up to speed


Right after the sharp right turns you'll run under the branches of this big tree and head towards the bridge.

Right after the big trees, you're  going to make another pair of sharp turns, this time to the left. This will bring you on the cement across the bridge and into crowded section of fans as you weave through the trees along the creek.  


After the sharp lefts you wind through the trees along the creek, and through the crowds. 


This bridge puts you back on the south side of the creek, and sends you out of the crowds as you'll have about 1/2 mile section with very few spectators. This is where a lot of the final moves start taking place, as they are within the last 1300 meters of the race. 

As you finish wrapping around the lake the second time you are about 1/2 mile to go to the finish. keep that in mind as you plan your finish. if you like going a long ways from the finish you should be rolling at this point. If you like waiting until 400 Meters to go, know you're getting close. 

You will cross the road and go through this gate with 300 meters to go. Once you've crossed this gate it's time to go. 


Right after the gate you'll cross this soccer field towards the track. 

You pass through this gate on to the track with 200 meters to the finish. Full speed ahead!


The race finishes on the North East end of the track, right in front of the grand stands of Highland High School. 


You have been working all year for this day, and Sugarhouse park is where all your hard work comes to a culmination. Make it count!!!