Sports event returning to Myrtle Beach in 2014

dbryant@thesunnews.comDecember 11, 2012 

— A national cross country championship event will return to Myrtle Beach in 2014 with the potential of bringing 2,300 runners and injecting about $2 million into the Grand Strand economy, officials said Tuesday.

The Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships will take place Dec. 13, 2014 at Whispering Pines Golf Course, an event that is expected to bring thousands of athletes, relatives and coaches to the beach during the off-season and give the area another push in its goal of boosting sports tourism, officials said.

This will be the third national championship event through the USA Track & Field association to take place in Myrtle Beach, which in 2011 hosted the same cross country event and the youth track and field championship.

In 2011, 2,300 runners from 46 states participated in the cross country championship in Myrtle Beach, spending about $2.1 million while in town, officials said.

The national event introduces Myrtle Beach to visitors who might not otherwise come here, said John Pedersen, an assistant city manager for Myrtle Beach who was involved in bringing the 2014 event to the beach. In 2011, 40 percent of participants were from non-traditional visitor markets west of the Mississippi, including 400 from California, he said. Officials’ goal is for some of those to return on vacation.

“This is an exposure to Myrtle Beach for those who would otherwise not be in Myrtle Beach,” Pedersen said.

Myrtle Beach beat out Charlotte, N.C., and Gainsville, Fla., to host the event in 2014, he said. About a dozen locals and statewide USA Track & Field representatives pitched Myrtle Beach during the USA Track & Field annual meeting in Daytona Beach, Fla., that wrapped up Dec. 2.

The group, which included Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes and Olympic athlete and former Coastal Carolina University standout Amber Campbell, emphasized the course and the beach’s many attractions as reasons to have the event here.

The national committee picked Myrtle Beach as the host in 2014 because of the success here in 2011, as well as the weather and the locals who help organize the event and line up volunteers, said Katie Branham, spokeswoman for USA Track & Field.

The cross country championship rotates around the country, with the 2012 event wrapping up last week in Albuquerque, N.M. It will be in San Antonio, Texas next year.

“It would be nice to be on a regular rotation for these events,” city spokesman Mark Kruea said.

Contact DAWN BRYANT at 626-0296 or at dbryant@thesunnews.com or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_dawnbryant.

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