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Running the show

Coordinating an NCAA championship event is no simple task

By Jeff Martin, as told to Lauren McNamara

Martin, who works as a track and field assistant coach at Indiana State University, is tasked with overseeing and hosting the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championship, held annually in Terre Haute, Indiana:

After being involved in planning the race the past 11 years, I’ve found out what works and what doesn’t. That makes the work a little easier, but with unpredictable weather, course conditions and the race itself, hosting a championship is definitely not a science.

I found that out very quickly last year in my first year as director of championships for cross country. As luck would have it, days of heavy rain preceded the meet and then the temperature plummeted. Not only did we have the mud to worry about but also faced the potential for ice. We spent countless hours trying to move the water and throw sand on the course; we did as much as we could to accommodate the runners and make the course safe. By race time, our work was barely noticeable.

The beauty, though, of cross country is that it’s not a glamorous sport. It’s outdoors, and every runner is going through the same conditions and running through the same mud, so while it wasn’t pretty, I’d say the 2013 championship was a success.

There’s no better feeling than the moment the gun goes off for each race, but I can never really take a deep breath until the last runner crosses the finish line. My primary concern of the whole event is to make sure the student-athletes have a good experience.

Working with the planning team and the local volunteers is my favorite part of the process. Our goal is to keep improving and keep enhancing the event so it doesn’t get stale, especially for the runners who’ve been here before. The championship is so much more than just the race; it encompasses the whole weekend the teams are in town. So we do our best to make Terre Haute shine for them.