LAVERN GIBSON CHAMPIONSHIP CROSS COUNTRY COURSE
Located just a few miles east of the city of Terre Haute, the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course is the centerpiece of the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center.
Sitting on the site of a reclaimed coal mine, the course was the vision of late Indiana State University head track and field and cross country coach, John McNichols.
LaVern Gibson donated the land for the course and the development of the facility. Indiana State and Boston Celtics basketball star Larry Bird made a donation to the facility in honor of his father, Joe Bird, and the donation was matched by Max and Greg Gibson in the name of their father and grandfather, respectively.
Ground was broken in the summer of 1995 with the first race, the Indiana Interecollegiate, conducted in October 1997. The course has hosted the Great Lakes Region meet four times (1998, 1999, 2001 and 2003), the Missouri Valley Conference Championship three times (2000, 2002, 2011), and the Indiana Intercollegiate seven times (1997, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2009, 2012, 2015).
The NCAA awarded the site the 2002 Division I Men's and Women's National Championship, the first of 12 such honors for Indiana State. The course went on to host the NCAA Championship eight straight years (2004-2011) and then again in 2013, 2014 and 2016. The course will again serve as host to the national meet in 2019, while also hosting the Great Lakes Region meet in 2017, 2018 and 2020.
Much of the course's popularity is due to its challenging, yet manageable, mix of uphill and downhill sections and its simple straightaway start that stretches for nearly the first kilometer before a turn. For spectators, no other course matches in LaVern Gibson's ability to see nearly the entire race from the right perch -- a nice perk for TV crews coming to broadcast the meets as well.
Since first breaking ground in 1995, the course has seen many different improvements and modifications.
• Finish line building and press box —1998
• Irrigation system down the main straightaway— 1999
• Permanent fencing down the main straightaway— 2002
• Permanent fencing along the course —2003-present
• Concession stand/bathroom facilities— 2003
• Bleacher seating down the main straightaway 2010
• Enclosed finish line chute with field turf lining
• New awards stand area, featuring the old pillars from the historic Terre Haute House
• Start line structure - 2019
16:24.6 - Taylor Werner, Arkansas, 2019 John McNichols Invitational
19:28.1 - Sally Kipyego, Texas Tech, 2008 NCAA Championships
22:51.3 - Samuel Chelanga, Liberty, 2008 Pre-National Invitational
28:41.3 - Samuel Chelanga, Liberty, 2009 NCAA Championships