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Athletes to compete in countryside 5K race

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Local student-athletes are expected to compete today in a nearby, cross country track meet, which aims to showcase the beauty of the area's agricultural landscape.

The cross country teams of Stockbridge, Luella and Locust Grove high schools are slated to compete this morning in The Rock Ranch Invitational, a 5K cross country track meet hosted by The Rock Ranch, in The Rock, Ga.

The Rock Ranch, a 1,250-acre cattle ranch owned by Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy, has evolved over the years into an agri-tourism venue, said Vivian Morgan, director of fun at The Rock Ranch. "Our focus here is on agri-tourism, and our emphasis here is to promote the connection between the land and ourselves," said Morgan.

She added that the meet, in its second year, should bring dozens of student-athletes from seven area colleges and 19 area high schools to run the scenic, 5K, continuous-loop path on the Upson County ranch.

"The route is extremely interesting," said Morgan. "Half of it is down hill, and half of it is up hill. You run through cow pastures, you run by a Conestoga wagon campsite, and you run around several lakes. It's going to be a serious workout."

Male, college, cross country runners can get an added workout, she said. They will race an 8K, continuous loop of the countryside during the meet.

She noted that the colleges signed up for the races include: Gordon College, Spellman College, Clark Atlanta University, Darton College, LaGrange College, Wesleyan College, and Decorah College. Six middle schools are participating this year as well, she said, including Luella Middle School.

"This event fits our purpose of uniting families with the land and each other," said Adam Pugh, event coordinator at The Rock Ranch. "We must all be good stewards of the resources we are entrusted with, and hosting a cross country meet on this beautiful, 1,250-acre piece of Georgia countryside seems like an excellent use of our resources."

Justin Osteen, cross country coach for Pike County High School, was credited with bringing the cross country meet idea to The Rock Ranch event organizers.

"This is a great course - a continuous, 5K loop with no backtracking -- and [with] great scenery," said Osteen.