Grove Stone & Sand prepares for two unique races

Fred McCormick

Soon, athletes from all around the country will will contend with the steep slopes and rocky terrain of an active quarry.

The unique topography of Grove Stone & Sand Co. that played a role in making the annual Rock the Quarry 5K a popular regional event will be the setting of the Reebok Spartan Super

Jon Neumann, more familiar with the quarry than most people, will be among the thousands of runners moving over eight miles of rugged terrain and nearly 30 Spartan obstacles.

As the sales manager for Hedrick Industries, the company that has owned the quarry since the 1950s, Neumann understands the landscape. But his role as the race director of the Rock the Quarry 5K gives him firsthand knowledge of what it is like to run in the rocky setting.

He has run Rock the Quarry for eight years and knows the race terrain well. He will compete in the Asheville Super as part of a team composed of friends and co-workers.

“There are five of us, and our goal is to just make it through the course,” he said. “We’re going to all run together to help each other out along the way. We don’t care about time, and I know it’s not going to be an easy race, so we’re just trying to make it through.”

Neumann has been hosting practice runs at the quarry once a month, giving participants in the Asheville Super or Rock the Quarry a chance to get acquainted with the landscape.

“It is beautiful property,” he said of the vast acreage on the east side of Black Mountain. “It is always enjoyable to run out there.”

The picturesque setting and the success of Rock the Quarry - it raised $23,000 for the Black Mountain Home for Children and the Colburn Earth Science Museum last year - were factors in attracting the Spartan race to the property, according to Neumann.

“Grove Stone and the Asheville-Buncombe Sports Commission were very involved in making this thing happen in Western North Carolina,” he said. “It’s something that we just want to do. It’s very exciting for the area.”

For experienced Spartan race runners like Beach Hensley, who is running in the elite wave of runners at the Asheville Super, the opportunity to participate in the event closer to home is appealing.

Hensley completed two Spartan races in Charlotte and is eager to experience the event in a setting like Grove Stone.

“I imagine that the terrain will be a big challenge,” he said. “I don’t really know what to expect with the quarry environment.”

A dedicated runner for the past 10 years, Hensley will be in the first group of around 250 racers that kick off the Asheville Super at 7:30 a.m.

“I’ve never competed in the elite category,” he said. “In my first year I really didn’t know what to expect, since I had never competed before. But this year I registered as non-elite when I ran in Charlotte and ended up beating a bunch of people that ran in the elite division.”

Hensley’s participation in the elite group means he is eligible to win a cash prize if he places near the top.

“You are in the wave with the faster runners, so you can pace yourself off of those faster competitors,” he said. “When you start the race with one of the later groups, a lot of the obstacles are covered in mud and harder to grip.”