More than 600 junior college runners are descending on Garden City this weekend for the NJCAA cross country champions, hosted by Garden City Community College at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course.
Roxanne Morgan, the executive direct of the Finney County Visitor’s Bureau, said that approximately 340 hotel rooms were booked for the weekend, and that does not include any potential rooms rented to auxiliary personnel or families coming with the athletes.
“It’s definitely making an impact on the lodging facilities,” Morgan said Thursday.
However, the amount of runners competing in Saturday’s pair of races — noon start for women and 1 p.m. gun for men — does not include any GCCC participants.
Current head coach Jimmy Joseph was hired in late august, just before the start of fall classes, and GCCC interim Athletic Director Colin Lamb said that was not enough time to recruit a cross country team.
And the team did not have returners from 2017, meaning the Busters will be without any representatives in Saturday’s meet — despite the fact that the Busters would have had an automatic berth for hosting.
“At the time that the bid was written in 2016, we had men’s and women’s cross country teams,” Lamb said. “At the current time, we do not, but we are moving forward and recruiting teams for next year. Regardless, we are excited to be hosting the national cross country meet this year.”
Lamb said it was an opportunity to showcase GCCC, Buffalo Dunes and the community.
“People see this community we have, and I think that’s the attraction for a lot of this stuff,” Morgan said, echoing Lamb’s statement. “We’re just very honored to have the NJCAA’s trust in us to host this.
“This is a partnership,” Morgan said. “It doesn’t just happen — the college, the FCVB, the course, the community — it’s everybody coming together.”
All are trying to put the town’s and college’s best foot forward for the second NJCAA championship event in two years — GCCC and Buffalo Dunes hosted the 2017 NJCAA golf championship.
“I think that any time we can host a national championship is a good thing,” Lamb said. “It is a win-win for the college and the community.”
According to the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, Iowa Central enters as the team favorite on the men’s and women’s sides. The Tritons are the defending champions for both genders, and the men have won three of the past four titles. The women have won six championships in 11 seasons.
The Hutchinson men are ranked No. 4, and are the highest-ranked KJCCC team in the field, while Cowley’s women are No. 3 as the top Jayhawk Conference representatives.
The school will host a banquet for athletes and school representatives on Friday evening at the Exhibition Building at the Finney County Fairgrounds.