Crystal Springs permanent closure causes devastation for Cross Country team: “don’t take our course”


Carly Heltzel

Crystal Springs, the beloved cross country course in San Mateo, was announced to be permanently closing earlier this month. With the protest that followed, the San Mateo County Community College District decided to keep it open for the rest of 2020 before shutting it down. For the generations of cross country runners at school and hundreds of others, the closure of this sacred course is devastating according to cross country Head Coach Craig Blockhus.

It would be a complete disaster to close that course

“It’s a beautiful, beautiful cross country only course, it’s all dirt. You don’t find that very often,” Blockhus said. “It’s a legitimate cross country course, you go up and down, it’s not flat, it’s scenic, it’s got challenges, it’s got turns, it’s got it all.”

Sophomore Ellie Montgomery runs up heartbreak hill, a notorious feature of the Crystal Springs course.

“Crystal is definitely one of the best courses that we have and it’s really exciting to get to run there,” Sophomore and varsity cross country runner Ellie Montgomery said. “Without Crystal as a race location, we’ll have to run at other parks and schools that are less authentic and not as fun.”

According to the San Mateo Daily Journal, the decision was made earlier this month by the San Mateo County Community College District due to their limited usage of the facility as well as event liability issues and complaints from the surrounding neighborhoods.

In response, Lucy Paynter created a petition through the website Care2 with a goal of getting as many signatures as possible in order to keep the course open. As of 9:30 a.m. on April 23, 1,035 people have signed it in support. (Click here to view petition)

It’s a course that people want to run

“I think you’re going to get a universal response when it comes to Crystal. Besides the people who hate running in general, the people who like racing or like running, they just love the uniqueness of the course,” Blockhus said. 

Crystal Springs was built in 1971 when Bob Rush designed it for the College of San Mateo cross country program; he remains the steward of it to this day making it a part of his life for nearly 50 years. He estimates that over a half million kids have competed on this course since then. 

The Varsity boys cross country team takes off during the league finals held at Crystal Springs last season. The course is now closing at the end of 2020 due to liability issues and neighborhood complaints.

“You’ve got all of the records and the nostalgia… it’s a course that people want to run,” Blockhus said.

Despite Rush’s years of dedication, in an interview with the San Mateo Daily Journal, he said he was not consulted in the decision and “not happy with the way [the closure] happened.” However, he added that he is hoping that the permit will be transferred to another school, district, or private donor who is willing to pay to keep it open. 

“[Rush] is highly invested in trying to find a way to save it. So, if we can get enough people behind him I think there might be a way to do it,” Blockhus said.

“It would be a complete disaster to close that course,” Blockhus said. “Hopefully, fingers crossed, they don’t take our course.”