Prior to Friday night’s showdown between the Clinton Red Devils and the Laurens Raiders, the cross country teams at both schools held their annual Football Run on Thursday afternoon beginning at Wilder Stadium in Clinton.

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Alongside Red Devil cheerleaders, the Red Devil mascot and families, the cross country team of Clinton ran with the football that will be used in Friday’s contest for approximately 4.7 miles to meet up with Laurens’ cross country team at the Clemson Eye clinic off U.S. 76.

From there, the Raiders ran around the same length up to the Square in downtown Laurens, where a group of fans, families, cheerleaders and members of the Raiders football team waited. The Square was also a site of a pep rally in preparation for Friday night’s contest.

It marked the first time since 2019 that Clinton and Laurens participated in the run. The COVID-19 pandemic canceled last year’s run, as well as the football game.

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For Laurens cross country coach Thomas Moore, the goal of the event is to support athletic programs from both high schools and bring excitement to the area’s biggest rivalry.

The main purpose of this event is to get hyped for the rivalry Clinton-Laurens game, but also being involved in other sports such as football. Especially the sports that aren’t well known and get us cross country runners a little bit of recognition,” the Raiders coach said, “so, it kind of helps grow our sport a little bit, but while also promoting the rivalry.”

On the opposing side, Lee Atkinson, the cross country coach at Clinton, said his former athletics director, Nickie Templeton, brought the idea up a few years ago and wanted it in some ways to be like the state’s biggest rivalry, South Carolina and Clemson.

We are pretty good friends with the cross country coach at Laurens in the first place,” Atkinson said. “Nickie ... several years ago had an idea about doing something like this. I had thought about something similar, but I never acted on it. We try to make it similar to what Clemson-Carolina do when they take the ball from Clemson to Carolina and from Carolina to Clemson, but it was Nickie Templeton that put everything together for the very first time.”

In terms of how both teams trained, Cheney Welsher, one of the top runners on Laurens’ girls’ team, had a simple message on how she and the team ran well.

We train with mileage every day.” she said.

Clinton boys’ captain Hayden Miner, on the other hand, said it was awesome to participate in, but both teams had to prepare for the amount of mileage they had to cover.

It was fun, but it was kind of hard because we had to run pretty far and it was really hot,” he said.

At the end of the day, the Red Devils’ captain knows how important it is to have the community as one.

I think it brings our communities together a good amount and we each get publicity and it’s pretty fun,” Miner said.