HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – A little bit of rain and mud didn’t stop thousands of high school runners from competing in a series of 5K races for the Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championship on Saturday.

More than 3,000 athletes gathered at John Hunt Park’s cross-country course in Huntsville.

“We have a great course, and a great running community here in Huntsville,” said Huntsville Sports Commission Executive Director Mark Russell.

Russell said he sees many high-level competitors at the annual meet.

“It’s been really nice to see all the athletes and what colleges they’re going to,” Russell said. “We hold the NCAA cross country meets, so we’ll see some of them again in the next few years. That’s been some of the excitement of the running community is I can remember some of the athletes here running that were in the top tens at the NCAAs this year.”

The championship brings many visitors to the Rocket City.

“It’s huge for economic impact,” Russell said. “We filled a lot of hotels rooms, and a lot of these runners will be in our restaurants today.”

The Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championship was created in Huntsville in 2020. After many national championship meets were canceled that year, Rodgers said he and other organizers wanted to offer a local alternative. John Hunt Park offers the necessary amenities, including a championship-caliber cross-country course with various distance options.

Since 2020, the event has grown in both size and prestige. The course at John Hunt Park is currently home to both the boys’ and girls’ high school national 5K records.

In 2020, Jenna Hutchins broke the girls’ national record with a time of 15:58.42. In 2021, Colin Sahlman broke the boys’ national record with a time of 14:03.29. Also in Huntsville in 2021, a record-breaking 79 boys ran a 5K in under 15 minutes.