Sports

Ogden: Thoughts on Fifth Season Races, Zach Johnson Foundation Classic and pro basketball in Cedar Rapids

Runners take off at the start of the Health Solutions 8K Race during the 32nd annual Fifth Season Races in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Jul. 4, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Runners take off at the start of the Health Solutions 8K Race during the 32nd annual Fifth Season Races in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Jul. 4, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

CLAYTON — This, that and another thing from a tiny town on the mighty Mississippi.

As I begin a week’s vacation keeping a watchful eye on the high waters and swift current of this beautiful river, I reflect on a few items coming to Cedar Rapids.

The first on the calendar, and always one of my favorites each summer, is the annual Fifth Season Races, aka the Fifth Season 8K.

In recent years, race organizers — specifically the Corridor Running Club — have shifted the emphasis of this Fourth of July staple to more of a community road race.

There’s nothing wrong with that.

But the problem is there are local road races every weekend. Very few sports these days draw interest from outside their base. Running is very niche, always has been.

But when the Fifth Season focused on elite runners — up-and-comers with Olympic aspirations or former Olympians mixed in with top-notch foreign talent — people came out to watch. Not many want to stand outside on a humid morning to watch their neighbors or third-cousin twice removed run a race.

Put together a field that can challenge a course record or a strong lead pack battling mile after mile, and people will watch.

There’s nothing wrong with that, either.

Road racing also was the only sport where us common runners could toe the line with the best in the world. You can’t do that on a NASCAR oval or a PGA course, but you can — or could — on the roads of Cedar Rapids.

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Money, of course, plays a major role in events like this. Without sponsors willing, or able, to foot the bill to bring in such talent, then you get an outstanding local road race.

Which, of course, is what the Fifth Season Races are.

And there’s noting wrong with that.

lll

Monday, Cedar Rapids professional golfer Zach Johnson brings his Zach Johnson Foundation Classic back to Elmcrest Country Club.

This year’s field includes John Daly, once one of the most polarizing figures in pro golf, Steve Stricker, Jonathan Byrd and many others.

Always a great event and a chance for local golf fans to rub elbows with some of the best professionals in the world, this event’s main goal is to raise funds for Johnson’s Kids on Course program, which “inspires in students the confidence to realize their academic and individual potential ...”

There’s a pro skills contest at 9 a.m. and a shotgun start at 10:15.

It’s a great event and an even better cause.

lll

Cedar Rapids will be home to a new professional basketball team — the Cedar Rapids Royals.

That’s according to a news release that came out about a week ago.

The Royals will play in the World Club Basketball Association, starting in April 2019.

Cedar Rapids and pro basketball hasn’t always worked. There have been successful ventures and there have been complete failures. The last Cedar Rapids “team” never played a game.

Myke Darrough is the owner, Ray Vasser the general manager and Karl Cassell the president of basketball operations.

It will be interesting to see if it will work. Stay tuned.

l Comments: (319) 368-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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