Asheville Spartan Race puts 77-year-old runner closer to his lofty goal

BLACK MOUNTAIN - Thousands of runners will breathe a sigh of relief when they cross the finish line of the Asheville Super, one of two Spartan Races returning for the fourth year to the quarry at Grove Stone & Sand on Aug. 4 and 5. Paul Lachance will take a few breaths, head to his hotel and get ready to do it all again the next day.

That’s because the 77-year-old cancer survivor will be back on the course the next day to run the Asheville Sprint, putting him one race closer to his goal of completing 15 Spartan Races in 2018.

Just four years ago competing in even a single Spartan Race would’ve seemed impossible for the Grand Junction, Colorado resident, who will travel to Western North Carolina for the first time to participate in the Asheville Super and Sprint Weekend, which takes place in Black Mountain, just outside the city from which it borrows its name.

“It started in 2014, after my heart attack, when I was looking on the internet for exercises and things of that nature,” Lachance said in a phone interview a few days before the race. “I came across a Spartan Race video and said to myself ‘I can do that.’”

He signed up for the shortest of the Spartan Races. The Sprint is over three miles and consists of over 20 obstacles, including flaming logs and towering walls.

“Sometimes they have a bucket-carry,” Lachance said. “What they like to do is find these hills, and you have a five gallon bucket filled with rocks, and you have to carry that bucket up the hill like 100 yards or so. It gets heavy.”

For obstacles that runners can’t complete there’s a penalty of burpees, or squat thrust, that must be performed within a designated area before returning to the course.

Lachance was quickly hooked on the races and began staying in shape to run more. In 2016 he completed what the Spartan website (spartan.com) calls the “ultimate Spartan achievement.” A Trifecta requires runners to complete three Spartan races of different distances within a calendar year, a feat Lachance accomplished three time in 2016 and four last year. 

"My goal is to add one Trifecta a year until I reach the age of 80," he said. "That will be eight Trifectas at 80."

But much like a Spartan Race, life placed an obstacle directly in Lachance's path at the end of last year. 

"I was diagnosed with a lump in my jaw last December," he said. "It came back positive for skin cancer and I had surgery to remove it after Christmas."

Not only did the radiation and chemotherapy treatment, which Lachance started undergoing in January, cause him to lose around 50 pounds, it also kept him from running Spartan Races. 

"I kept bugging the oncologist about letting me run," he said. "But he wouldn't let me."

While the treatment took its toll on Lachance physically, he gained strength in other ways, 

"I know I'm a little slower this year than in past years," he said. "But mentally I think I'm stronger than I've ever been. I'm more resolved now to get these five Trifectas done this year."

Doing so will be no easy task. 

Lachance completed a Super (eight-10 miles with 24-29 obstacles) and Sprint in Jacksonville, Florida in April and followed those up with another Super and Sprint weekend at Fort Carson in Colorado. He picked up another Super in Austin, Texas in May before a thunderstorm forced the cancellation of the subsequent Sprint.

The races at Grove Stone & Sand will get him almost halfway to his goal. 

"My body will let me finish strong," he said. "I'm in the best shape of my life right now. I've been training with a Spartan coach the last few weeks and I can feel my body mending itself."

In fact, Lachance has seen a significant reduction in the amount of medication he needs in the wake of his quadruple bypass surgery following his heart attack. 

"Doing these races has given me a whole new outlook on life," he said. "In a lot of ways I feel like I'm a better person than I was before."

His experience makes Lachance want to encourage others to try one of the races. 

"I had a guy tell me 'I need to do one of those one day,'" Lachance said. "I told him he only needed two feet to get out there and try."

It's not about your time, Lachance added, it's about the sense of accomplishment. 

"I'm a very slow runner, but at least I'm out there," he said. "At the end of the race I get the same medal and banana that everyone else gets, but there's no better feeling than crossing that fire line at the end."

Fred McCormick, Black Mountain News

Beyond the Scoreboard: Tourists become 'Asheville Hippies' for Thirsty Thursday

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) — Having some fun for a great cause will be theme when the Asheville Tourists host the Greenville Drive in a first-place showdown at McCormick Field on Thirsty Thursday.

The Tourists will transform into the “Asheville Hippies,” wearing far-out, customized jerseys for the game with a 7:05 p.m. start.

The promotion was a big hit last year when the two teams met, and once again the game-worn jerseys will be auctioned off, with proceeds benefitting Vs. Cancer, an organization that helps local patients.

 (Photo courtesy of Asheville Tourists)

(Photo courtesy of Asheville Tourists)

Fans can bid on the jerseys at AshevilleHippies.com. The bidding closes at noon Sunday.

The Drive and the Tourists were the two worst teams in the South Atlantic League in the first half of the season, but are tied for first in the second-half division race.

The Thirsty Thursday game begins an eight-game homestand for Asheville (14-10).

The Tourists bounced back from a four-game losing streak to win three of four in their most recent series at Greensboro.

The slugging offense pounded out 14 home runs in the three wins vs. Greensboro.

Last year’s “Hippies” game promotion was a big hit with fans, and the team raised $2,200 in jersey sales to benefit the Asheville Tourists/Eblen Charities Children’s Fund, a non-profit that buys shoes for children in Buncombe County.

Asheville decided to bring back the Hippies in 2018 in large part due to the success of the promotion both in the community and the amount of money it raised.

“Last season we raised over $2,200 for the Asheville Tourists Children’s Fund,” said Tourists president Brian DeWine. “We decided to poke a little fun at ourselves and we’re happy to do it again.”

In addition to the jersey auction, Asheville Hippies t-shirts, caps, and other Hippies merchandise are available for fans to purchase at TheTouristsTrap.com.

Beyond the Scoreboard: Parker wins record seventh Skyview golf title

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) — Greg Parker has played steady, accomplished golf for more than 35 years, through a collegiate and pro career that has established the Old Fort native and Marion resident as one of the best from WNC to ever tee it up.

The 52-year-old head pro at Marion Lake Club added to that impressive legacy Thursday with a record-breaking seventh Skyview golf title.

Putting on one of the best 54-hole efforts in the tournament’s 59-year history, Parker posted a three-day total of 20-under to edge the equally brilliant Noah Ratner by two shots at Asheville Golf Course.

Parker (67-62-67-196) finished with 23 birdies to win yet another Skyview, and though official records are not kept, he is believed to be the first of a long list of notable champions – including Chuck Thorpe, Shane Thompson, Richard Clark, Lee Elder and Jesse Allen – to win seven times.

“They are all special, but this one was a little extra special,” said Parker, who took home the $2,500 first place prize after winning the title for the first time since 2014.

“When you get older you tend to cling to these wins because you don’t know how many more there will be,” he said. “It’s nice to know I can still be competitive and play well enough to win.”

On his 27th birthday, Ratner was the hard-luck second-place finisher, finishing 18-under after nearly matching Parker’s spectacular total of 22 birdies over 54 holes.

Riding in the same cart the last two days, Parker and Ratner combined for 34 birdies over the last 36 holes, an incredible display of shot-making and scoring.

The tournament came down to the par-5 17th, where a bad bounce and bad luck cost Ratner, who trailed Parker by one.

After booming his drive on the 491-yard hole, Ratner – who won the Skyview in 2015 and ’16 - hit a 6-iron approach just a few yards left of the green.

His ball hit a cart path, bounced through the golf cart of a spectator and went out of bounds. Ratner made a bogey-6, while Parker got up and down from a greenside bunker with a 10-foot birdie putt for a three-shot lead.

“I was aiming 30 yards right and just pulled it a little, and the wind picked up and caught it,” said Ratner, who received $1,900 for finishing second. “I played great, Greg just played a little better.”

“Noah played every bit as well as I did,” said Parker. “It was a great shootout the last two days, and especially today.”

Richard Clark, another multiple Skyview winner, finished third at 13-under and earned $1,500.

Austin Fisher of Hendersonville, a rising senior on the Brevard College golf team, won the amateur division at 8-under, one shot ahead of Kyle Scruggs of Gaffney, S.C. Scruggs missed a putt inside four feet on the final hole that would have forced a playoff.

Tommy White of Asheville waltzed to an eight-shot victory over Byron Bailey in the senior amateur division. White shot 11-under.

59th Skyview Pro/Am Tournament
Final Round at Asheville Golf Course

Pro/Senior Pro Division

  • Greg Parker 67-62-67-196 $2,500
  • Noah Ratner 66-65-67-198 $1,900
  • Richard Clark 66-69-68-203 $1,500
  • Jesse Allen 68-70-66-204 $1,200
  • Matt Cook 70-68-69-207 $1,000
  • Ryan Smith 72-67-70-209 $750
  • Phil Nickell 71-67-71-209 $750
  • Skip Taylor 67-74-69-210 $700
  • Tommy Padgett 71-71-71-213 $600
  • Robbie Biershenk 70-70-74-214 $550
  • Paul Everett 71-70-73-214 $550

Amateur

  • Austin Fisher 68-65-75-208
  • Kyle Scruggs 71-67-71-209
  • Joseph Squires 69-70-72-211
  • Joshua Crisp 71-69-71-211
  • Thomas Garbee 73-70-78-221
  • Christopher Fry 76-70-75-221
  • Woodruff Logan 79-71-71-221
  • Cody Mincey 73-71-79-223
  • Nicholas Boone 77-74-73-224

Senior Amateur

  • Tommy White 68-66-71-205
  • Byron Bailey 71-70-72-213
  • Jeff Long 76-69-69-214
  • Bourgin Boyd 71-73-74-218
  • Scott Pritchard 72-70-81-223
  • Brandon Godfrey 79-71-74-224
  • Cletis Dozier 73-79-72-224
  • Ivory Walker 69-78-78-225
  • Jerry Wilkins 79-72-76-227

Beyond the Scoreboard: Skyview golf returns for 59th straight year

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) — Since 1960, the Skyview Pro-Amateur Benefit Golf Tournament has been a fixture on the local sports scene.

A 54-hole stroke-play event at Asheville Golf Course, the Skyview will be contested for the 59th straight year on July 10-12.

It began as a tournament for African-Americans only, named the Skyview All-Negro Open, with a small field and a $300 purse in the year John Kennedy was elected president.

Two years later, tournament founder and director Charles Collette and others in the Skyview Golf Association decided to admit Caucasians, and the tournament has been a blend of races ever since.

In its heyday, black golfers of national and international fame like Lee Elder and Charles Sifford Jr. played in the Skyview, along with celebrities like world heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis.

Elder, a PGA Tour player who was the first African-American to play in the Masters, won the Skyview three straight years in the 1960s.

At the height of its popularity 20 to 30 years ago, the Skyview was part of the black North American Golf Association tour, and more than 200 local and national players would compete at the Asheville course, a Donald Ross design that opened in 1927.

After Collette died in the early 1970s, Billy Gardenhight took over as tourney director, and more than 40 years later he is still part of the leadership group that conducts the event each year.

Gardenhight remembers a time in his youth when he caddied at AGC and black golfers were only allowed to play on Mondays.

“We’ve come along way, with the culture and with the tournament,” said Gardenhight, a member of the Black Golfers Hall of Fame.

“We want to keep this tradition going and make it bigger and better.”

Fees for this year’s event are $275 for pros and senior pros and $160 for amateurs. Players who register early will save $15 off the entry fee. Saturday is the deadline to register early.

The pros and senior pros will compete for a purse that will be as much as $13,000 if there is a full field.

The amateurs tee off at 8 a.m. each day and the pros and senior pros begin at 2 p.m. all three days, both with shotgun starts.

Interest in the Skyview has waned in recent years, with the total field dipping into two digits, so tourney officials and AGC employees are working together to create more support and participation in the event.

Local businesses like Ingles and Postnet have made contributions, and the tourney will feature tee signs with other local businesses and individuals signed up as sponsors.

Veteran local player Phil Nickell won last year’s pro division, shooting 11-under par in the 36-hole event. Candler Rice (-4) won the amateur division.

Local pro Noah Ratner won the pro division in 2015 and ’16.

Registration forms for the tourney are available at the AGC pro shop. For more information or to register, call Lee Shephard (335-6377), Fred Woods (423-8485), Ivory Walker (774-5534) or Gardenhight (231-0860). Care to comment? Contact at keithjarrettasheville@gmail.com

Youth Leaders Examine Soccer and English as a Second Language in Asheville, North Carolina

[Asheville] — As part of the U.S. Department of State’s Sports Diplomacy Division programs, 15 participants from Albania, Belgium, and Guatemala will spend June 30 - July 14, 2018, in Asheville examining English as a Second Language through soccer. Xplore USA will host the group for their annual ESL summer camp. Managed by FHI 360, Sports Visitors are non-elite youth athletes, coaches, and administrators who travel to the United States for a fast-paced short-term sports cultural exchange with American peers and sports practitioners. During the program, they participate in clinics and sessions on leadership, team-building and conflict resolution, as well as on America’s experience with inclusion and equity in sport.

The Sports Visitor Program creates a network of leaders around the world who have firsthand experience and understanding of U.S. culture, society, and values, through exploring America’s athletic landscape -from community based programs to professional sports. Sports Visitors take part in capacity building, leadership, and sports-based programs that help shape their future educational and employment goals and aspirations.  Funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Sports Visitor Program connects participants to their peers in the United States and creates important opportunities for Americans to engage with individuals from other countries, thereby deepening trust and understanding between the United States and other countries and cultures.

The Sports Visitor participants from Albania, Belgium, and Guatemala are joined by FHI 360 staff for the entirety of their visit and together with U.S. Department of State personnel, ensure the program is adapted to U.S. foreign policy goals and participant interests.

While in Asheville, the participants will participate in workshops on Sports and Society in the U.S., Civic Engagement, English as a Second Language, and Leadership; collaborate with the local University soccer team; engage in team building activities; and attend soccer practice with the Asheville School. This program is an ideal opportunity to use a non-political force to bring young athletes together with other athletes from around the world. They will learn that they have more in common than they could have imagined. They will build networks and friendships that will last beyond the project's completion. They will learn about teamwork, improve their English language competency, enhance their soccer skills, and learn how to use the tools they gain in the United States to be leaders in their communities.

Through home stays, Sports Visitor participants will experience American family life.  Additionally, they will take part in several cultural and community activities, including volunteering at Special Olympics North Carolina, going white water rafting, attending 4th of July celebrations, and attending a local baseball game.  

The Sports Visitor Program has brought more than 2,000 current and future leaders from all over the world to the United States. Participants have come from every world region and more than 100 different countries and growing.

For more information, please contact Monika Wilcox at mwilcox@fhi360.org or visit our website at www.sportsvisitor.org.  Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @Exchanges360.

For U.S. Department of State press inquiries, contact ECA-Press@state.gov.  To learn more about State Department sports diplomacy, follow us on Twitter (@SportsDiplomacy) and Facebook (@SportsDiplomacyDivision).

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Community Comes Together To Ensure The Asheville Lacrosse Classic Continues

   
  
   
  
    
  
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    The Asheville Lacrosse Classic will be held this weekend thanks to the work of several organizations that came together in the face of recent flooding that threatened to shutdown the tournament. The Asheville Buncombe Regional Sports Commission (ABRSC) says the games will be held June 16-17, 2018 at the Buncombe County Sports Complex and Sand Hill-Venable Elementary School.  The recent heavy rainfall and the subsequent flooding of the John B. Lewis Soccer Complex put the tournament in jeopardy of being able to continue. On May 29th, the John B. Lewis Soccer complex was flooded with more than 10 feet of water and the four fields from that facility were lost for the tournament. Since, the soccer complex was scheduled as the playing venue for 40 of the 100 teams competing in the tournament, the event was at risk for cancellation or a move to another city unless additional fields were secured.  ABRSC and the Asheville Buncombe Youth Soccer Association (ABYSA) worked with Tournament Director Trent Brown to explore the options. Turf renovation projects and a severely cold winter made finding replacement fields difficult. “We spent several days and countless hours looking for potential options and solutions to replace the John B. Lewis Complex,” said ABRSC Executive Director Demp Bradford. “You really never imagine that you will lose the use of artificial turf fields for an event.” Bradford and ABYSA Executive Director Mike Rottjakob reached out to the Explore Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau, Buncombe County Parks and Recreation and the Buncombe County Schools for assistance.  Buncombe County Parks and Recreation made two more fields available at the Buncombe County Sports Park and Buncombe County Schools added a field and available parking at the adjacent Sand Hill-Venable Elementary School. The staffs of ABYSA and Buncombe County Parks and Recreation have been working this week to get all of the fields lined and ready for the tournament. “Our community partners truly came together in the last week to make sure that this event was able to remain in Buncombe County,” said Bradford. “We had a lot of community leaders working behind the scenes to help put the pieces together and we cannot thank ABYSA, Buncombe County Parks and Recreation and Buncombe County Schools enough for working with us and the Explore Asheville CVB to make this tournament possible. It would have been very easy to cancel the event, but our community rallied together.”  With 100 teams, the Asheville Lacrosse Classic uses over 2,000 hotel rooms in Buncombe County for the weekend with an estimated combined indirect and direct spend of close to $2.0 million into the economy. This is the fifth consecutive year that the tournament has been completely sold out with 100 teams competing in Asheville. Teams from all over the southeastern United States attend the two-day tournament.

The Asheville Lacrosse Classic will be held this weekend thanks to the work of several organizations that came together in the face of recent flooding that threatened to shutdown the tournament. The Asheville Buncombe Regional Sports Commission (ABRSC) says the games will be held June 16-17, 2018 at the Buncombe County Sports Complex and Sand Hill-Venable Elementary School.

The recent heavy rainfall and the subsequent flooding of the John B. Lewis Soccer Complex put the tournament in jeopardy of being able to continue. On May 29th, the John B. Lewis Soccer complex was flooded with more than 10 feet of water and the four fields from that facility were lost for the tournament. Since, the soccer complex was scheduled as the playing venue for 40 of the 100 teams competing in the tournament, the event was at risk for cancellation or a move to another city unless additional fields were secured.

ABRSC and the Asheville Buncombe Youth Soccer Association (ABYSA) worked with Tournament Director Trent Brown to explore the options. Turf renovation projects and a severely cold winter made finding replacement fields difficult. “We spent several days and countless hours looking for potential options and solutions to replace the John B. Lewis Complex,” said ABRSC Executive Director Demp Bradford. “You really never imagine that you will lose the use of artificial turf fields for an event.” Bradford and ABYSA Executive Director Mike Rottjakob reached out to the Explore Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau, Buncombe County Parks and Recreation and the Buncombe County Schools for assistance.

Buncombe County Parks and Recreation made two more fields available at the Buncombe County Sports Park and Buncombe County Schools added a field and available parking at the adjacent Sand Hill-Venable Elementary School. The staffs of ABYSA and Buncombe County Parks and Recreation have been working this week to get all of the fields lined and ready for the tournament. “Our community partners truly came together in the last week to make sure that this event was able to remain in Buncombe County,” said Bradford. “We had a lot of community leaders working behind the scenes to help put the pieces together and we cannot thank ABYSA, Buncombe County Parks and Recreation and Buncombe County Schools enough for working with us and the Explore Asheville CVB to make this tournament possible. It would have been very easy to cancel the event, but our community rallied together.”

With 100 teams, the Asheville Lacrosse Classic uses over 2,000 hotel rooms in Buncombe County for the weekend with an estimated combined indirect and direct spend of close to $2.0 million into the economy. This is the fifth consecutive year that the tournament has been completely sold out with 100 teams competing in Asheville. Teams from all over the southeastern United States attend the two-day tournament.

Asheville City Soccer Club Launches “Just Play” Initiative

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Anyone can play. Anytime, anywhere. All you need is a ball.

Asheville City Soccer Club is proud to introduce "Just Play,” an initiative to broaden access to soccer in our hometown. Just Play strives to break down systemic barriers in American soccer, starting in our own neighborhoods.

Imagine every kid in our community having a soccer ball, pick-up games in the street or any available space, and a style of play in Asheville that is as diverse and electric as the global game.

“From our Club’s launch in 2017, we aspired to present a local solution to the effort in American soccer to produce players who can compete on the world stage,” says ACSC President Ryan Kelley, “The United States has won three World Cups, and we know from the women’s side and countries around the world what it takes to produce world class talent,” says Meghann Burke, Director of Public Affairs.

Just Play is founded with the belief that playing soccer leads to positive outcomes across a wide range of areas, including health, academic achievement, psychological well-being, and future career success.

“With Just Play, we seek to strip the game down to its purest form, to bring back the simplicity that makes soccer the beautiful game. We believe that the next generation of American soccer must be as diverse, creative, and resilient as the game demands if we are to compete on the world stage.”

Just Play is implemented through four pillars that focus on what makes the world's game beautiful: its simplicity.

Pillar 1: All you need is a ball. Asheville City will donate a ball to an economically disadvantaged youth in our community in the name of every season ticket holder.

Pillar 2: Play anywhere. The world over, the game is played in streets, alleys, and on dirt patches. Beginning this fall, Asheville City will feature open play pickup at Open Streets Asheville and will support street soccer and pickup games throughout our community.

Pillar 3: Connect with role models. We know it matters when kids see role models who look like them and have shared experiences. The world's game is diverse and so is Asheville City Soccer Club, and we will play with and teach the game to youth citywide.

Pillar 4: Get inspired. Asheville City renews its commitment to free or discounted admission to all games for children 12 and under.

Asheville City Soccer Club features premier women’s and men’s soccer in the WPSL and NPSL, respectively. Both teams call Memorial Stadium in downtown Asheville home. The men kickoff vs. Myrtle Beach on Friday, May 4 at 7pm, and the women kickoff vs. Chattanooga on Saturday, May 5 at 7pm. Game day tickets are $10, and children 5 and under are free. For more information, visit www.ashevillecitysc.com.