Those crazy folks in Salida; they're at it again!
This summer, over the trails surrounding their scenic little community on the Arkansas River, the fine folks of Salida will be hosting the National High School Trail Running Championships on the Salida Mountain Trails system. Elevation checks in at around 7000 feet and up.
Yes, they are genuinely serious about this.
You officially have until July 29 to get ready for this. And it makes sense for you to get ready for this if you complete any or all of grades 8 through 12 this spring. Yes, newly graduated seniors are still eligible to compete!
Race distance is somewhere between five and six miles, give or take a furlong. It gets a little dicey computing precise trail distances on terrain that includes switchbacks, short, steep climbs and descents, longer, more gradual climbs and descents, rocks of all shapes and sizes, and small, furry creatures (probably also a few small, scaly ones, too). One important fact to grasp here is that this is trail running and distance isn't the same kind of defining concept that it is for track, or even for high school cross country.
There is no qualifying race to enter, but there are qualifying standards. Specifically, to qualify you must register before the fields fill. The event web site doesn't offer a lot of specifics on that yet, but I'm sure word will leak out as they approach those numbers.
There will be a citizens race at 7:30 AM for all those who want to conquer a trail but don't fit the high school age criteria. Boys will race at 8:30 AM and girls at 9:30 AM.
When you're done, you can deposit your haggard carcass in the Arkansas River (it runs a bone-chilling kind of cold even in July) until lucid thought processes return. Race directors promise to shoo away any vultures or ravens exhibiting an inordinate interest in recumbent bodies in or near the river. Jackals are not native to the Salida area, but any jackals seen approaching said bodies will be shooed away as well.
There will both team and individual awards. Athletes who attend the same high school may form teams of three to five individuals. The first three individuals will be team scored, cross country style. Those running on a team still qualify for individual awards. It's a safe bet any awards handed out will have a distinctive local flair.
If, at any point in your life, you've successfully figured out how to (legally) form a team for Nike Cross Regionals, you appear to have all the skills needed to enter a team at the National High School Trail Running Championships. The requirements for an official team are remarkably similar.