Here is the route for this evening’s cross country race. Several roads will be closed or blocked off so make sure to arrive early.

The Mattoon Invitational cross county meet will return to its original route through the city after a 20-plus year hiatus. Called one of the best races in America by two-time world cross country champion Craig Virgin, who ran the course as a high school athlete in Lebanon, the event had been held at Lake Land College for many years.

Virgin, who was also a three-time Olympian and nine-time All-American at the University of Illinois, will be on hand to kick off the races and possibly to hand out awards afterward. His time of 13 minutes, 50.6 seconds in 1972 remains the Illinois high school record for boys cross country.

Mattoon coach Troy Haacke said this year’s race will feature about 300 runners from 21 schools in both boys and girls divisions. The boys race will start around 5:30 p.m. near the bridge at the historic Mattoon Train Depot and finish at Peterson Park. The girls race and the open race will follow shortly thereafter, said Haacke.

Broadway Avenue will be closed to all traffic from about 4:15 p.m.

Despite the hyperbole on the flyer, the Mattoon race was, in fact, considered one of the best races in America. Olympian Craig Virgin has called it as one of his all-time faves.

The open race costs $25 the day of the event. All proceeds will go toward the MHS Green & Gold Day Community Service Projects and to the Mattoon High cross country team.

Mattoon High will celebrate its homecoming with a parade through town after the race.

You can read a full report on Wednesday night’s race here at later that night.