TCC coach eager to see junior college national cross-country event at Regional Park

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

More than two decades ago when Apalachee Regional Park was in its birthing stage, Leon County Parks and Recreation Depart boasts about it becoming a place when some of the best athletes will perform.

That has played out in recent years, as the park has become the site of major collegiate and high school cross-country championships. It’s also the home of Tallahassee Community College’s cross-country team.

All these years later after the park was projected to be the site of major events, the Eagles’ track and field coach Gary Droze is making yet another prediction – or sounding more like what he expects to take place at the park.

Droze stated his expectations shortly after Leon County government announced that TCC will host the 2022 National Junior College Athletic Association Division I and Division II Men’s and Women’s Cross-Country Championships. 

It will take place at Apalachee Regional Park.

“I anticipate that athletes, coaches, and spectators will come away from the 2022 meet knowing that they have just witnessed a cross-country championship that rivals any successful major sport final, in terms of venue, production, and excitement,” Droze said in a statement. 

TCC track and field coach Gary Droze is expecting the 2022 junior college cross-country championships to feature top-notch competitors.
Photo by TCC athletics

He also praised stakeholders who pushed for the event. They include Visit Tallahassee, Florida State University and the Gulf Winds Track Club. 

All of them “have poured years of labor, ingenuity, and funds into making the ARP a world-class cross-country course,” he said.

The Park will also host the 2021 NCAA Cross-Country Championships. According to a release from the County, the last time the NJCAA event was last held in Tallahassee was at FSU in 1973, long before TCC started its four-year-old track and field program.

“Bringing this event to Tallahassee has been a goal since the day we introduced the program in 2015, and we’re very fortunate to have strong partnerships with both Visit Tallahassee and the Tallahassee running community, who shared the same vision,” said Rob Chaney, athletic director at TCC. “It will be exciting to watch this event come together over the next couple of years, and I’m just as anxious to see it raise the profile of cross country at Tallahassee Community College.” 

When the event was announced, Leon County  Division of Tourism, said the event can be expected to bring 1,000 athletes and coaches. The economic impact was pegged at $1.5 million.

The park’s more than 100 acres makes it suitable for major sporting events, the county said.

“With recent investments at Apalachee Regional Park, our facility continues to be in high demand among national athletic associations,” said Leon County Commission Chairman Bryan Desloge. “We look forward to a hopeful future past the COVID-19 pandemic when we can welcome fans, coaches, and student-athletes to experience the most memorable championship of their lives.”

In addition to being the home of Pop Warner Football, the park has been the host site of championships under the banner of the NCAA, Florida High School Athletic Association, United States Track and Field and the ACC.

 “We are delighted that Apalachee Regional Park continues to draw prestigious sporting events from across the country while also standing out as a one of a kind year-round recreation area in our community,” said Kerri L. Post, Director of Leon County Division of Tourism. “Blessed with topography unlike any other in Florida, we welcome visitors and residents to explore and discover all that Tallahassee-Leon County has to offer.”