For more info on the Oxford Classic, visit oxfordsuites.com/oxford-classic.php. Results can be found at athletic.net/CrossCountry/meet/143955/info

This Friday, cross-country teams from Central Oregon and around the Northwest will pile into Drake Park for the Oxford Classic. The annual meet, called the Puma Classic from 2003-09, draws 28 teams to Bend this year. The Bend High Lava Bears are the hosts once again.

Bend coach Lisa Nye, 47, is a Bend native and graduate of Mountain View High School. She said the Oxford Classic fosters camaraderie among the various Central Oregon teams who participate in it.

“It’s neat to get all the Central Oregon schools together for an afternoon meet on that course,” Nye said. “There are schools that always come from elsewhere, but I think the neat thing for our kids is being able to do a downtown Bend, Central Oregon meet, and it’s fun that all our schools come together.”

The course is a challenge, running through the grass of Drake Park and along the Deschutes river. Two junior varsity races and one varsity race are scheduled for boys and girls, with staggered start times between 1 and 3:30 p.m.

Nye said the meet draws plenty of fanfare. Parking for parents and fans, according to the meet sponsor Oxford Hotel’s website, will be in a public garage adjacent to the hotel in downtown Bend.

It takes a lot of work behind the scenes to organize an event like the Oxford Classic, Nye said. She added that her players raised funds for the event and will help set up the course before their competitors come to town. In the end, she said, they will have put on an event of importance for the community.

“We host it because we feel it’s really important for each high school to host a meet,” Nye said. “It gives back to the community and it’s a big effort to put on. It’s a lot of work for our parents, coaches and athletes, but part of what you do as a local cross-country program is take a turn hosting a meet.”

Nye also expressed gratitude for the community’s embrace of this event despite its size and scale.

“It is a long-standing tradition to have cross-country in Drake Park,” Nye said. “We are fortunate that, despite Bend’s growth, the Bend Park & Recreation District and the city are still supporting our high school athletes.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0307, rclarke@bendbulletin.com

21354992