Inland Empire Challenge: Is it a true county championship?

You can see videos above of two of the top San Bernardino County runners on Saturday at the Inland Empire Challenge: Alta Loma’s Koby Pederson, who was third in the boys sweepstakes and Serrano’s Kelly Fairchild, who was third in the girls sweepstakes.

I’ve covered this event several times over the years and the organizers, which include Alta Loma’s Rich Morales and Rancho Cucamonga’s Terry Tierney (and formerly included former Rancho Cucamonga girls coach Mark Cushman), bill it as a battle between the counties and to crown county champions.

They know it’s not really determining who is best in each county. They’ve tried hard to get more of the top schools from the two counties to commit. The problem is, it’s also the same weekend as the Clovis Invitational, run on the same Woodward Park course that hosts the state meet.

So, programs that are among the top 10 in the county perennially, such as Yucaipa and Ayala don’t go to the Inland Empire Challenge. Many of the top Riverside County teams also don’t come for the same reason.

Serrano coach Ken Quinn said he would love sometime to have his teams go to Clovis, but they can’t afford it. And he loves the IE Challenge, because as he says, “it’s closer than some of our league meets.”

He’d love to see the IE Challenge moved to the third Saturday in October, the same weekend as the Orange County Championships, because there would be fewer conflicts for San Bernardino County schools.

It will continue to be a great event, regardless. But to be true championships for both counties, something needs to change.

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  • Change the Date

    I agree. How can it be a “county championship” when the runners who “win” consistently do not post the best times in the county (sometimes off by minutes)? In addition, there seems to be a frustration by the organizers of the event (which appears to spill over into the press) due to the top county athletes skipping the local invite in order to participate in a much more competitive race? That decision allows the best county runners an opportunity to compete with athletes from other areas in California (who may very well be their competition at the state level). The IE Challenge should move their date if they want to “crown” the best runners in the county.