Holyoke Community College hosted the 2013 Division III National Junior College Cross Country championships Saturday, Nov. 9, at the Northfield Mountain Recreation Center.
More than 200 runners from 30 schools competed. Athletes along with their coaches were celebrated Friday night, on the eve of the races, at a banquet at the Bartley Center on the HCC campus. This was the second time in three years HCC has hosted the national cross country championship.
HCC athletic director Tom Stewart said both the races and the banquet were a big success and a great boost for HCC..
"It's great that we can host 30 sister schools from across the country," Stewart said. "It puts us on the map nationally."
In 2011, the Division III NJCAA National Championship hosted by HCC had been scheduled for Stanley Park in Westfield before a late October blizzard forced a shift of location here to campus.
"It was easier this time," Stewart said.
Schools from as far away as Georgia, Illinois and Michigan participated.
"Some of the kids have never been to Massachusetts, let alone western Massachusetts," Stewart said.
The guest speaker at Friday night's banquet was Yale University track and field coach David Shoehalter, who talked about the importance of of sports in higher education, highlighting how competition and comradery helps build character.
"There is no better laboratory for the real world than college athletics," Shoehalter said.
Stewart said HCC will host the event again in 2015.
"We're looking foward to having everyone back," he said.
Photos: (Left) Runners in the women's race head toward the finish line. (Right) HCC's Joe Ostrowski hits the course at Northfield Mountain in the men's race.