Yankton Trail Park will host a cross-country running extravaganza this weekend in Sioux Falls as the Nike Cross Regionals Heartland arrives.

On Sunday, thousands of runners from seven states will compete in multiple divisions. Director Kristi Rieger touts the staying power of hosting the event in Sioux Falls.

“This will be the eleventh year that the event has been in Sioux Falls and it’s been wonderful to watch the event grow every year for the eleven years that it’s been in Sioux Falls. When you get an enormous corporation like Nike that puts their name behind it, it’s done in a first class way so it is not like a normal high school cross country meet that folks are used to seeing.”

Rieger is impressed with the growth of the event over the past eleven years.

“The first year of our event, we had just over 500 athletes (compete). This year, we’re expecting over 4,000 athletes including our Community races and our high school cross country races as well. Every year we’ve enjoyed this nice growth.”

This event is a qualifying competition for the nationals to be held in Oregon. Rieger says they have done their best to lay out the course to mimic what the runners at nationals will experience.

“When we built the course we designed it to mimic the national course. We ran that course for nine years. Two years ago, they changed the course so we made some modifications to try to accommodate those changes. It was four hills and that was exactly what the athletes would have to negotiate if they made it to the national championship. They have since taken those out (at nationals) and we have taken ours out as well.”

Racing will take place on Sunday with the seven states within the Heartland region being North and South Dakota, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin.

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