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Beth Maiman | | September 2, 2022

The best college cross country courses you can run

2021 women's cross country championship | FULL RACE

Here are some of the best cross country courses you can run in the United States. 

Depending on the type of course and type of runner, the viewpoints here can vary. However, reached out to former runners, media members, experts and fans of the sport to get their takes on which courses reign supreme.

We looked at what courses the average runner might enjoy using, as opposed to what makes the best cross country course for a race. 

Below we break down the 8 best courses and why they're great, according to experts:

Rim Rock Farm

Location: Lawrence, Kansas

About the course: This historic course was home to the men’s championship in 1965, ‘66 and ‘98. It has also hosted Big 12 Championship races in 2006 and '14. The location was actually donated to Kansas by coach Bob “Timmie’ Timmons. According to the university's website, the course features six ponds and two covered bridges, with black-painted steel silhouettes of athletes such as Jim Ryun, Billy Mills, Johnny Lawson, Wes Santee, Herb Semper and Al Frame. The scenery is something to take in with redbud trees, evergreens and bluebird boxes. Runners encounter steep hills and various plateaus.

Wayne E. Dannehl National Cross Country Course

Location: Kenosha, Wisconsin

About the course: This course has held various collegiate cross country meets at various levels. The land has been set aside for the sole purpose of cross country running and skiing. The terrain is flat while also having some rolling hills and areas for coaches and spectators to watch, since runners will pass the starting line during the race. 

What they're saying: "I once covered the Big East Championships at UW-Parkside in Kenosha, Wisconsin and I remember that had some beautiful stretches of scenery while the runners were suffering," said Sports Illustrated's track and field reporter Chris Chavez.

Apalachee Regional Park

Location: Tallahassee, Florida

About the course: This course, which will host the FSU Invitational this weekend, is recognized as one of the premiere cross country courses in the nation. It will host the DI championship in 2021. 

Lavern Gibson

Location: Terre Haute, Indiana 

About the course: This course has been home to the NCAA Divison I Cross Country Championships 12 times since 2002. The course and town has been nicknamed "XC Town USA," following similar suit to Eugene, Oregon, which is known as TrackTown USA. The site sits on a reclaimed coal mine and features a mix of uphill and downhill sections, while being nestled amongst trees. The late Indiana State cross country coach John McNichols created the vision for the course, which was specifically created for cross country races. The course also has a press box and many areas for spectators to watch the race. 

What they're saying: “Our course was designed to be specator friendly," said Indiana State's Senior Associate Athletics Director Angie Lansing. "It's a trail where you feel like you are in nature, which is something you want when you run cross country.”

Van Cortlandt Park

Location: Bronx, New York

About the course: Known for its notorious Cemetery Hill, Van Cortlandt Park is a course that many runners have grown to love. 

What they're saying: “A lot of people hate that course because it’s so tight in the woods...but I love the course because it forces you to fight for position.” said Tyler Mayforth, a communications assistant for USTFCCA and former collegiate runner, who also discribed it as a "griddy course."

"I believe that Van Cortlandt Park is the best college cross country course because of how challenging and historic it is," Chavez said. "Dating back more than 100 years, Van Cortlandt is known among the running community as the mecca of cross country running. If you have a conversation with most runners on the high school, college or professional level, they probably have a story about how Cemetery Hill probably killed their legs. I raced at Van Cortlandt Park in high school a couple times and then a few times post collegiately and both times I've felt worse after the race than when I've run a marathon. It takes that much out of your legs and that's why some of the course records are so respected."

Greiner Family OSU Cross Country Course

Location: Stillwater, Oklahoma 

About this course: This course is home to one of the oldest cross country races in the country, the Cowboy Jamboree, which began back in 1937. The course is grass, with wood chips and rolling hills. One interesting aspect of this course is that there are steps in three positions of the course, each set with three steps, which is similar to a typical European cross country course. 

Thomas Zimmer Championship Cross Country Course

Location: Madison, Wisconsin

About the courseAccording to Wisconsin, its cross country course features an exterior loop of approximately 2,500 meters and an interior loop of 1,000 meters. Both loops cover the area's rolling hills and valleys, while the outside loop also runs through a section of dense woods, which are aflame with color in the fall. The course opened in 2009, and used the course at Indiana State as inspiration. 

Goodman Campus Cross Country Course

Location: Bethlehem, Pennsylvania  

Recognized for its signature cornfields and beautiful surroundings, the course at Lehigh has hosted many NCAA events over the years. 

Honorable mentions: 

Buffalo Ranch, Boulder, Colorado 

Hamilton College, Clinton, New York 

Zimmer Championship Course, Madison, Wisconsin

Did we miss one? Contact and let us know! 

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