By Brady Bonsall
UNK Track & Field/Cross Country Head Coach
Every fall, as I am painting the long blue line at the Kearney Country Club, I can’t help but remember my first state cross country meet in 1989. At the base of the hill just east of the 15th tee box, I was hanging on for dear life in third place. By the time we reached the top of that hill, somehow I was in the lead and there was only one kilometer to go. Winning that race as a junior in my first year running cross country was pivotal in determining the trajectory of my life.
Although the course was changed in the fall of 1991 to create a more spectator-friendly finish, and the athletes now run down the 15th fairway much earlier in the race, most of the blue line that I paint is the same line the Lyle Clausen painted thirty years ago.
This will be my twelfth year serving as one of the army of volunteers for an event that annually brings competitors from around the entire state on a Friday in late October. The coordination of efforts, including the contributions of many who have been part of this event much longer than me, highlights a major strength of our community as we are big enough to host an event like this but small enough to have so many community members involved, including a great number of student-athletes and athletic training students from UNK.
A few times, our ability to complete the set-up process has been in doubt. One time, setting up the fence involved digging through several inches of snow with our hands at every corner to find the blue line. Another time, it was cold and raining all day with about a 30-40 mph wind. That was the day I forgot to use the parking brake on my gator, the wind pushed the gator down a hill, and it came a few feet from ending up in the lake. I was working solo that day, though, so nobody knows about that one! Amazingly, the weather for race day has usually been manageable. Our hope is for the perfect day with the temperature in the 50s, cloudy, and no wind.
As always, I look forward to getting away from my office, painting the long blue line, putting up the fence and signs, and welcoming the state of Nebraska to the city of Kearney!