Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival organizers donate $36,000 to local running programs

Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival President David Swain presents a check to Fayetteville High School cross country coach Michelle Fyfe.

Staff photo

The 24th annual Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival is set for Saturday, Oct. 13, and although we’re still a few days away from the start of any races, several area cross country programs have already benefited from this year’s event.

Six checks totaling $36,000 were distributed to high school coaches in Fayetteville, Springdale, Har-Ber, Rogers, Heritage and Bentonville during a special ceremony held at 324 Ballroom on Dickson Street Tuesday afternoon.

The annual event began in 1988 when locals Joe Fennel, Randy Rhine and former FHS coach Kelly O’Meara were out running when O’Meara mentioned that his annual cross country program budget was only $100. That discussion led to Fennel and Rhine forming the Chile Pepper Running Club, which became the Chile Pepper Run before evolving into a premier cross country festivals, featuring high school, collegiate, and amateur runners from all over the nation.

The event has since raised over $236,000 from sponsorships, merchandise sales, and entry fees collected for the annual race.

This year’s event begins with the Chile Pepper Open 10K run at 7:45 a.m. on Saturday at the University of Arkansas cross country course, followed by a fun run at 7:50 a.m., and a full day of races featuring collegiate, high school, and junior high teams from all over the region.

More photos from Tuesday’s check presentation event