The Sault will will unveil its new cross country course on Thursday as five teams will converge on the hard-pack limestone base for its inaugural run.
There had been some speculation as to whether the course would be finished in time for the meet to run, but Sault coach Jim Martin has a guarantee from the contractor that the new construction will be ready on time.
“It's ready for Thursday's meet,” Martin said. “It's not quite ready for U.P. Finals yet, but what is done is absolutely beautiful.”
The new course is 5,000 meters, or 3.1 miles and is hilly and curvy, and was designed that way for a reason.
“We wanted to make it that way so that the snowmobiles and ATVs wouldn't be able to go fast on it and would probably not go on it much for that reason,” Martin said. “I don't think there's a stretch on the entire trail that is straight for more than 30 yards.
“I don't think that the course will be overly fast,” he continued. “Even though that limestone base is a fast surface, the hills and the curves are going to slow runners down. The first and last quarters are flat, but the middle half is filled with curves and hills. I'm anxious to see how fast it will actually run.”
Joining the Sault for the debut will be Gladstone, DeTour, Newberry and Sir James Dunn of Sault, Ont.
“I thought more west-end teams would come,” said Martin. “This is a time that they could come and have their kids not miss any school. But we're happy with field that we have. It should be a good measuring stick as to where we are to start the season.”
In the boys meet, Sault junior Jake Bennette is the defending U.P. champion, and is a big favorite to be the top finisher on Thursday.
“I just don't know if there's anyone on this side that can keep up with him,” Martin said of his No. 1 runner.
From a team standpoint, the Sault and the Gladstone Braves should be the top two teams in the meet.
In the girls meet, Newberry and the Sault are expected to to battle it out in a preview of several Straits Area Conference meets scheduled for this season.
“Newberry's top runner is stout,” said Martin. “But any of my top five runners could step up and win the race.”
Three freshmen are included in that top five, as Brenna Moher, Cassie Maleport, and Alex Perry have times nearly equal to those of seniors Arin Baril and Brittany Ockenfels.
The meet is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Minneapolis Trail system.