Aucilla Christian Academy’s Warrior Stampede cross country race was different from any other race being hosted in Aucilla’s region on Oct. 4. First of all, it was free to any team that wanted to participate. Second, the starting line was located in an orchard at Green Industries, where pecan leaves were gracefully drifting down upon the runners’ heads like manna from heaven.
“The layout was breathtaking,” said Aucilla Christian Academy Cross Country Coach Dan Nennstiel, whose boys’ team won first place with a perfect score while the girls’ team placed second. “God absolutely gave us a beautiful day to host this race.” This was the first race the school has hosted in years that wasn’t at the school, and they received great support from Jefferson County.
“I have to thank Parrish Barwick, John Lilly and the Jefferson County Commissioners for providing the manpower and property required for this race,” said Nennstiel. A total of six teams were represented, including: Florida High, John Paul II Catholic High School, Godby High School, Suwannee High School, North Florida Christian School and ACA. “An army of people were at the race working behind the scenes, and we couldn’t be more grateful.”
Nennstiel said they didn’t advertise the race as they normally would because this was a “test race” to see what the course could handle. He believes there is a possibility that a bigger race could be held in the future at the same Green Industries location because Jefferson County is centrally located to participating schools, especially if ACA continues to charge no entrance fee.
“When I started coaching over 10 years ago, we didn’t have to pay more than $50 or so to enter a race,” said Nennstiel. “Now, schools are charging hundreds of dollars for teams to participate in races, and it’s just not right. That’s one reason we decided this race would be free.”
Jefferson County’s picturesque setting and central location has a lot going for it as a destination for cross country running. The southern charm of the people and hospitality just may win the hearts of those who enjoy racing — and, like manna from heaven, be something that’s not expected, but certainly needed and appreciated by all who love this sport.