Augusta State University's cross-country program is moving to Columbia County.
The Jaguars will hold all their home races at Blanchard Woods Park beginning next season, and coach Adam Ward has his eyes on playing host to a Division II national championship sometime in the next few years.
"It's probably one of the best places we've ever had to train, because we can prepare for any type of course you want to run on," Ward said.
Before the agreement with Columbia County, the Jaguars ran at the Augusta Canal, North Augusta Greeneway and Forest Hills Golf Course.
Under the agreement, ASU and Columbia County will separately attempt to round up sponsors for the course. All money the county raises will go back into the course. Twenty-five percent of the money the school raises will go to the county. Most of ASU's initial profit will go to paying for the large digital clock for the course.
"Unfortunately, we're not making the money I'd like to make to be able do the cool things we'd like to do, like some other larger programs," Ward said. "But we get by."
There are already a few sponsors in place for the soccer field, which the cross country course wraps around. There are no sponsors lined up for the course, but Ward believes the potential is there.
"Even in the fall, between the two men's and women's matches, we had 250 runners," Ward said. "We got more people coming this year. It's going to grow, and I think it's going to be a good opportunity for people to reach certain demographics."
Ward said most of the money raised would probably go to course improvements. There are places on the course where roots are exposed and several steep inclines present risks to runners, Columbia County recreation manager Charlie Beale said. The park serves as host for some of the area high schools, and Beale said other high schools are free to use it if scheduling permits.
Beale is rounding up the all-time record holders for the course, from both high school and college, to go on a course record board. The board is open to sponsorships.
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