After almost a decade, the state cross country meet has a new home.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association announced last week in a press release this fall’s state cross country championships will take place at Fortress Obetz, a 50-acre multi-purpose sports complex located in Obetz on the southeast side of Columbus.
For the past nine years, from 2011 to 2019, the state cross country meet was held at National Trail Raceway, a dragstrip roughly 20 miles east of Columbus. Prior to that, the state meet was held at Scioto Downs, a horse racing track in Columbus, from 1985 to 2010, when the meet was forced to move after the facility added a casino.
Fortress Obetz, which boasts grandstands capable of seating 6,500 people, opened in 2017 and was built where Columbus Motor Speedway used to be located. This year’s state meet is scheduled to be held on Nov. 7 and “represents one of the largest high school cross country events in the country, with more than 11,000 fans,” according to the press release.
Fortress Obetz hosted the Ohio Machine, a professional lacrosse team, from 2017-2019 and was built to host concerts, festivals and more in addition to just sporting events. The press release said it has five video boards, concessions and restrooms, as well as “a huge parking lot.”
As for the grandstands themselves, they feature “1,100 flip-down seats, 2,000 bench-back seats and 3,400 bleacher seats.”
“The village of Obetz is extremely proud and excited to partner with the OHSAA,” National Director of Athletic Operations and Facilities Promotion Steve Adams said. “We feel our Memorial Park and the Fortress is perfectly suited for the OHSAA cross country state tournament. We have created a safe and challenging course for the runners and kept the spectator experience in mind, as well.”
“We can’t wait for our student-athletes and Ohio’s entire cross country community to experience the state championships at Fortress Obetz,” OHSAA Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass said. “This facility is so impressive, from the course layout for the competitors to being more spectator friendly for the fans, and we are thrilled to sign a five-year agreement.
“We would like to thank National Trail Raceway for hosting the state championships for the last nine years and doing an outstanding job as our host.”
Area runners saw plenty of success at National Trail Raceway during the past nine years. Minster’s girls cross country squad has won four consecutive Division III state titles and finished as runner-up in 2015. Fort Loramie’s boys squad won state titles in 2016 and 2018 and the school’s girls squad finished runner-up to Minster in 2018.
Two runners earned individual titles on the course as well. Versailles’ Samuel Prakel won individual D-III boys titles in 2011 and 2012 while Minster’s Emma Watcke won the D-III girls title in 2017. Watcke finished as runner-up in 2018, 1.7 seconds behind first place.