On Saturday, Nov. 11, Berkshire will welcome 19 teams to campus for the Division II Cross Country New England Championships. It has been seven years since the school hosted the event, and it will be a race to remember for runners, coaches, and spectators—in part because of the return of 'Cardiac Hill.'
"When (longtime coach) Twiggs Myers founded Berkshire's cross country team in 1966, he trained his athletes hard on this screamer of a hill nestled behind the tennis courts which clearly paid off," said current girls head coach Britt Plante. "He racked up 200 victories in his career."
Six years ago, Berkshire's 3.1 mile home course was moved from the main campus across Route 41 to East Campus, to provide a safer environment for runners, according to Plante. Among the 8-acre solar field course athletes needn't worry about traffic, running on pavement, or the dangers of soccer balls getting in the way of their footing. The East Campus course also allowed coaches and spectators to get a glimpse of runners at least four times over the entirety of the race via a three-loop course.
But when Berkshire was selected by NEPSTA in April to host the 2017 championships, it quickly became apparent that the East Campus course wouldn't suffice with a field of 120-plus runners, per race (varsity and junior varsity) along with spectators cheering for their squads. So, Plante and boys head coach Rob Lloyd took the opportunity to move the course back to Berkshire's main campus, where the cross country team thrived under the leadership of Myers and his successor, Bill Gulotta.
Runners will begin the championship course on the grass along Berkshire's driveway heading south parallel along Route 41 and make their way around "Gilligan's Island," a grove of trees on the southernmost stretch of the Route 41 fields, and begin their climb up the athletic fields, across Stewart Pitch, and eventually towards Cardiac Hill— a stretch with an incline steep enough to challenge even the best runner's fitness.
Once runners crest Cardiac Hill, they will switch gears into a long downhill stretch which will weave them through parts of Berkshire's 400 acres, past Thoreau House, behind Berkshire Hall, and right down the middle of Buck Valley. Though the championship course is technically one loop, coaches and spectators will be able to see runners from a distance and have plenty of opportunity to cheer on their teams.
Plante said Berkshire's 2017 teams have been training on the original course to prepare for the championship races.
"Hosting New England's gives us a home course advantage, and that will make a difference for our runners, physically and mentally on the big day," Plante said.