THE BOB Roller Invitational is back at East Jackson and bigger — much bigger.
East Jackson is expecting 27 teams and 750 runners Thursday in what is almost certainly the largest meet in the school’s history.
“I would think so,” East Jackson cross country coach Tomy Sitton said. “I don’t know how I could get many more.”
The school held the first Bob Roller Invitational last year in honor of the school’s first cross country coach. Roller will be at Thursday’s meet as the guest of honor.
The 750 runners will be spread out over four races. The varsity boys will start at 4:30 p.m. followed by the varsity girls (5 p.m.), the junior varsity boys (5:30 p.m.) and the junior varsity girls (6:15 p.m.).
The race will draw teams from all over Northeast Georgia, as well as metro Atlanta.
Five of East Jackson’s fellow Region 8-AAA teams will run in the meet. The only Region 8-AAA schools not attending are North Oconee and Morgan County.
Sitton explains the appeal of this race at this time of the year.
“For some, it’s a chance to run on the region course,” Sitton said. “For some, it’s a chance to run on a fast course.”
This is the second large-scale race for East Jackson this year. Back in September, the school hosted the Eagle Invitational, which drew 21 teams.
“That September race was kind of a trial run to see what I need to improve on,” Sitton said.
Sitton calls Team USA trip to Bulgaria ‘a great experience’
EAST JACKSON cross country and track and field coach Tomy Sitton spoke highly of his recent trip to Kavarna, Bulgaria to serve as the Team USA men’s coach for the Oct. 6 World Half Marathon Championships.
Sitton — who has been actively involved with U.S. track and field for several years —coached the group to a fourth-place finish, which tied Team USA’s best-ever showing in the event. Naturally, Sitton was pleased with his team’s showing.
“I thought that if we finished in the top six, we were doing well,” he said.
This was Sitton’s third trip abroad as a Team USA coach.
Aside from the success in the event, Sitton enjoyed meeting and working with world-class runners.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “I really enjoyed getting to know the men and women runners on both teams.”
Eastern African countries dominated the top three spots with Kenya winning, followed by Eritrea and Ethiopia.
The United States, with a team time of 3:09.56, earned the fourth-place spot.
According to a press release, Augustus Maiyo (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Luke Puskedra (Eugene, Ore.) led Team USA men as the pair ran within a second of each other through the 15 km mark. Maiyo pulled ahead over the remainder of the course to take the top U.S. spot in 15th place in 1:02:33. Puskedra was not far behind as he took 17th in 1:02:17. Ian Burrell (Tucson, Ariz.) finished in 1:04:37 to take 28th place and round-out the team score. Scott Smith (Flagstaff, Ariz.) finished 36th in 1:05:46 and Michael Eaton (Bowling Green, Ky.) was 59th in 1:08:52.
It was a whirlwind experience for Sitton, who left for Bulgaria Oct. 3 and arrived home Oct. 7.
“It was a lot of traveling in a short period time,” Sitton said.
Still, Sitton would jump at the opportunity to serve as a Team USA coach again.
“I’d do it in a heartbeat,” Sitton said. “It’s too great of an opportunity to pass up.”
Since he’s guided U.S. distance teams to a bronze medal and fourth-place finish in his last two trips, there’s a chance another opportunity will arise with Team USA.
“That’s what my friend said, ‘keep your passport ready,’” Sitton said.