If you’re thinking about eating out this coming Saturday night, you might want to think about making reservations. Now.

Well over 1,000 runners are expected to be in Rome Saturday. While most of them will be carbohydrate loading Friday night, rest assured many of them will be famished later in the day Saturday. Restaurants in Rome are liable to be packed.

No, there won’t be 1,000 runners at the Berry Half-marathon and 10K race, but throw in a couple of huge track meets at Berry and Barron Stadium and the number of young athletes, many of them with families in town to watch, and you get the picture.

Berry College track coach Luke Syverson and Rome High track coach Nick Bridges have been making plans for this coming Saturday for months. The two coaches did not initially plan to hold huge meets the same day, but once that became apparent both men have embraced the date and hope they can make a difference not only in the ives of the young athletes they coach, but the Greater Rome community itself.

Embrace the race(s)!

Berry College typically hosts two big track meets each spring, one in March, the other in April. Actually, Coach Syverson expects the April event to be a little larger. Nonetheless, he’s got 13 colleges coming in with both male and female athletes for the Victor Ice Breaker Duals.

While there will be more than a dozen colleges competing, Syverson estimates between 500 and 600 athletes, the scoring will be broken into clusters with Berry, for example, competing against two or three other NCAA Division III colleges. That type of scoring will hold true for everyone else in the meet as well.

Over at Barron Stadium, Bridges has 22 teams registered to participate including many of the top teams in North Georgia. Guntersville and Scottsboro, a couple of top track powerhouse teams from Northeast Alabama, will also be in town for the Rome Invitational.

Couple those events with the annual Berry Half-marathon, 10K and 5K which have local restaurant operators are stocking up on their pasta for the weekend.

Syverson said hotels in Rome, Calhoun and Cartersville are all pretty much full for the weekend which is music to the ears of local hoteliers.

Once upon a time, years ago, I tried to hurl the discus. All that spinning around in the block in preparation for the throw made me dizzy so I ended up sticking with baseball and basketball.

Track is one of those unique sports where you compete as an individual and as a member of a team. Syverson said that from a coaching standpoint, that’s the best of both worlds.

“They like being a part of the team and there are kids that are really good and like being an individual champion,” said Syverson.

Bridges said the Rome High program has 170 kids out from sixth through 12th grades.

“We’ve always had good athletes. We’re just trying to make track important to them,” Bridges said.

Both coaches believe records will fall during the Saturday meets. Syverson feels pretty confident that a Berry school record or two could fall. Bridges, who is never short on enthusiasm or optimism, said he thinks a couple of national scholastic records could fall over at Barron Stadium.

Then there is the Berry Half-marathon, 10K and 5K.

I ran a half-marathon once. It was January 1983. I was working in Waycross and went with several friends to Hunter Army Airfield outside Savannah. It was a loop course run in conjunction with a full marathon and I got lapped by Ethiopian Arega Abraha just before he won the marathon.

I was sufficiently embarrassed and never ran that distance again. In fact I think that set off one of the up cycles in my lifelong battle of the bulge.

The Berry half marathon and 10K will start at 8 a.m., the 5K about 20 minutes later. The track meet will get underway over at the Valhalla Stadium complex around 9, while the high school event at Barron Stadium will get underway closer to 9:30.

“We’re excited about what this can do for the community,” Syverson said.

I’ll be watching, not running. I may however run to beat someone into Provino’s later that evening.

Associate Editor Doug Walker is always looking for news and tips about area businesses. Email him at DWalker@RN‑T.com or call 706-290-5272.

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