Ontario's Tessa Hart will join her teammates at the Crosby Invitational Thursday at Treasure Valley Community College. The event will draw more than 600 middle and high school athletes from across the region. (Submitted photo).

ONTARIO – Ontario High School cross country coach Jose Marquez will be busy Thursday.

That’s because Marquez will oversee one of the biggest cross country meets in recent memory when the Crosby Invitational kicks off at Treasure Valley Community College at 3 p.m.

“I am really excited because it is our home meet and we will have full teams on varsity,” said Marquez.

He estimated that close to 700 runners – high school and middle school – will be on hand for the meet.

Marquez said 24 high school and 20 middle school squads will compete. The event, he said, has grown dramatically each year.

Local teams expected to participate include Nyssa and Vale, Four Rivers Community School and Adrian.

Among those registered to compete, those with the fastest times recorded so far this season are Tim Stevens from Union at 15:29, on the boy’s side and Weisers Abby Shirts with a time of 19:35 for the girls.

Among Malheur County runners registered, the fast times posted so far are Ontario’s Jacob Moore at 18:21 and Nyssa’s Olivia Page with a time of 21:25.

“Before this, the most we had is 12 teams. So, this is four times as big,” said Marquez.

This year, he said, the meet would not be possible without help.

“The TVCC cross country team helps a lot. They help us set up,” said Marquez.

Athletes will run a 5,000-meter course that stretches across the community college campus.

“The course loops around the grass and up and down the hills in the area,” said Marquez.

Marquez said he likes the meet because his runners can compete in front of family and friends.

Marquez said the event would be good for younger athletes, “especially for the middle school kids to be around the high schoolers and see how awesome the next level is.”

Marquez said the number of teams that signed up is a reflection of the kind of competition the Crosby Invitational exhibits.

The middle school athletes begin competition at 3 p.m. High school runners begin at 4:30 p.m. The varsity boys will start at 5 p.m. and the varsity girls will begin at 5:30 p.m.

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.