PORT RICHEY — What's with all the runners on the roads today?
The Ragnar Relay kicks off this morning from Port Richey's Waterfront Park, taking teams of runners on a 201-mile trek across the state. Runners will head out Ridge Road, up Little Road, across State Road 52 and up the Suncoast Trail on a course that dips through northeast Pasco before heading toward Daytona Beach.
The race has more than 1,000 competitors — and is one of five large sporting events happening in Pasco County this weekend, reports Eric Keaton, the county's tourism manager.
"Pasco County's TDC (Tourist Development Council) and Board of County Commissioners made a decision to promote the area as a sport and travel destination," Keaton said. "This weekend's activity really applauds those efforts and it highlights our venues, partnerships and relationships with the event organizers, youth groups and tourism partners."
On Saturday, the Little Everglades Ranch just north of Dade City will host the state high school cross country championships for the fifth consecutive season. More than 2,000 competitors will run the 5K course in eight different classes, and an estimated 190 programs have qualified for the team trophies.
At the same time, hundreds of cyclists will be pedaling through Pasco for Ride Without Limits, a two-day, 200-mile event that helps raise funds and awareness for United Cerebral Palsy. The course will start and finish at Crews Lake Park, taking riders along the Suncoast Trail and back roads of Pasco and Hernando counties.
And central Pasco will be busy with two tournaments this weekend.
The Derek Pieper Memorial Cup Lacrosse Tournament will draw more than 90 teams to Wesley Chapel District Park. The event will serve as the final qualifier for the Dick's Sporting Goods Tournament of Champions, which will be held in January at the same park. Teams from Florida and the rest of North America will vie for the final spots in the Boys' Club National Championship.
The USL Soccerfest will play out at fields around Tampa Bay, including the Land O'Lakes Recreation Complex, with games starting today and ending Tuesday. The tournament is expected to draw more than 10,000 participants, family members, and spectators from throughout the world, with guests expected to fill more than 8,500 hotel room nights, consume more than 75,000 meals and use more than 800 rental cars across Tampa Bay.
All told, the event is expected to bring an economic impact of $3 million to the region.