Distinguished Service Award - The ARP

Herb Wills

I’m an old cross-country guy, so I’ve run cross-country a lot of different places. Golf courses, military reservations, school yards, horse tracks, city parks, state parks, experimental forests, river levees, and so on. But on two different continents, I never ran anywhere that was just a cross-country course. Usually, the moment the race was over you were no longer welcome on the course. On some venues you didn’t even feel welcome during the race. This was particularly true of golf courses.

Now, Tallahassee is a cross-country city. Really. You may not have noticed it because of all the noise accompanying another autumn sport, but it’s true. The FSU Lady Seminoles placed second in the NCAA cross-country championships last November. Leon County high schools have fielded 24 state championship teams since 1969, and runners from those high schools have won 20 individual state titles. Back in the 1970s Florida State hosted the AIAW national cross-country championships, and in 1991 Tallahassee hosted the meet to select the United States team for the World Cross-Country Championships.

You won’t find any place in Florida with a stronger tradition of cross-country running excellence than Tallahassee and Leon County. But our community also had a tradition of cross-country being chased out of one venue after another. Like most places, we didn’t have a dedicated cross-country course.

Well, Pat Plocek, Bob Braman, and Brian Corbin weren’t satisfied with their home being no better than most places. Pat Plocek works with the Leon County Division of Parks and Recreation and a little over a year ago he came up with a list of county lands on which a cross-country course could be developed. Brian Corbin and FSU coach Bob Braman know a little bit about running, and they picked out a part of Apalachee Regional Park along Lake Lafayette. Last winter Bob and Brian mapped out a loop in the park, and hacked out a narrow path through the woods.

Pat did his magic with the county, and the path became a wide avenue. With support from Leon County, Gulf Winds Track Club, Florida State University, and an army of volunteers, Pat, Bob, and Brian turned jungles, swamps, and old cow pastures into a first rate cross country course in time for the 2009 FSU Invitational. Three cross-country meets have already been held on Leon County’s Apalachee Regional Park Trail. There will be more. There is a good possibility that we’ll see a NCAA regional meet on the course later this year.

Best of all, you can go out there tomorrow morning or any time the park is open and run. No one will hit golf balls at you, and you won’t have to check the calendar to see whether or not it’s deer season.
A special project like this deserves special recognition. For their role in delivering the Apalachee Regional Park Trail cross-country course to our community, the Gulf Winds Track Club would like to present FSU’s Bob Braman, Leon County’s Pat Plocek, and our own Brian Corbin with its first Distinguished Service Award.