DARLINGTON - Thanks to a remarkable effort, the storm-ravaged cross-country course for the Darlington Carnival was ready, but issues beyond the control of those who worked hard to clear more than a dozen fallen trees and mounds of debris forced meet coaches to cancel this year's event.
"It is with great regret that we will be cancelling the 2016 Darlington Cross-Country Carnival," Darlington High Cross Country Coach Rich Wideman said recently.
More than 20 teams were scheduled to compete, but only four could make it. Wideman said teams had too many issues to overcome, including flood and wind damage from the storm and loss of power that stretched over several days.
Hurricane Matthew hit the Pee Dee with 50-mph winds and torrential rain. Many schools were closed for more than a week.
"We are not sure of our status for the next couple of days," Wideman said.
The meet was originally schedule for Oct. 8, but was pushed back a week due to the pending storm which struck the Pee Dee early Sunday. Randall Ewing, coach for Darlington's cross-country region rival, Hartsville, called Wideman Sunday night, the day after the storm hit.
Wideman had not had time to check on the course when Ewing called, but after seeing the damage he sent Ewing a text gladly accepting his offer.
"Thirty minutes later he was there and we started cutting."
Wideman said the storm knocked over 20-25 trees at several locations along the course, which is at the middle school. Part of the course passes a low area near a creek that typically overflows in heavy rain.
"We had close to eight inches of rain," he said. "Combine that with wind gusts that got up to 50-plus miles per hour and we had a very messy course."
Wideman said Ewing helped clear the course "for several hours" the Monday and Tuesday following the storm. When Wideman arrived that Tuesday morning, Ewing was there with Paul Rogers, an assistant at Hartsville, chainsaw in hand.
Wideman said he also got help from a former track parent and three local firefighters.
Between that group, the grandfather of one of Wideman's athletes and a crew of team members, friends and parents, the course was cleared of debris in two days, he said.
Wideman said the entry fees from the schools would be forwarded to next season.
Darlington Middle School is the host venue of the Class AAAA Lower State qualifier.