Cross-country invitational returns to Northside

Published 4:47 pm Tuesday, October 2, 2018

PINETOWN — After a decade’s absence a major cross-country meet is returning to Northside High School in the form of the Panther Invitational, as hundreds of runners will descend upon the school to compete this Saturday in what will be one of the largest high school cross-country races in eastern North Carolina.

18 teams and over 300 runners from schools ranging from 1A to 4A are scheduled to compete in the event, with the first race beginning at 9:30 a.m. Northside cross-country coach Bob Girani, who is organizing the event, said he sees the meet as a way of establishing connections and camaraderie between all the schools that normally don’t get a chance to face off against each other.

According to Girani, Northside used to hold an invitational in the past, but wasn’t able to hold it for a couple of years in the mid-2000s and Washington took over, hosting the Pam Pack Invitational. Washington wasn’t able to host its invitational this season, giving Girani the opportunity to put on the Panther Inviational.

Northside’s cross-country course, which will also be the site for the 1A Coastal Plains Conference Championship meet and the 1A East Regional meet, is seen around the area as a top-notch course, according to the Northside coach.

“It is extremely spectator friendly, everybody can see their kids for almost the full race,” Girani said. “And it’s coach friendly, they can pick up their times at (the) one-mile (marker) and two-mile (marker) and go back home with those times and work them out with the kids and show them where they fell apart or where they fell down. I always thought that was extremely beneficial (about the course).”

Northside’s squad is on the smaller side this year, but Girani said he hopes the enthusiasm generated from holding the invitational will carry over to next year and more kids will start to come out for the team.

“Like anything else, success breeds success,” Girani said.

Along with bringing together schools that normally don’t compete against each other that often and generating a buzz for Northside cross-country, Girani said he wants to bring the spotlight to the school that he’s so proud of.

“I’m hoping we’re able to put Northside on the map.”