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September 12, 2010
By JOHNNY BUCK - Bulletin Sports Editor More than 1,500 people entered the gates of the Smith River Sports Complex on Saturday, but not all were there for soccer.

The complex hosted a 5K run in the morning and a semi-professional football game in the evening. The Piedmont Youth Soccer League had more than 20 games on its season-opening day, while Averett University hosted the Cougar Classic, a Division III soccer tournament.

Safe to say the place was bustling with activity.

And that's just the way Billy Russo wants it.

"This is probably one of the top three busiest days we've had," said Russo, the director of operations at the SRSC.

"Last fall, we had just soccer, and we had a couple of events," he explained. "This year, we have not only soccer but field hockey, youth football, flag football, adult football, lacrosse. We're all over the place. And so we've shown that we've grown. That's important to us, and it's exciting."

The day began with the Run for Recovery 5K, sponsored by Piedmont Community Service's Drug Task Force.

The race and its sister event, the Walk for Recovery, featured more than 30 participants. Last fall, the inaugural Run for Recovery was held at the Martinsville city park, according to Valerie Blevins, the Drug Task Force and event coordinator.

This year's event went even better, she said.

"It was excellent. We had more people involved in the cause this year. I think the 5K was a high point," said Blevins, who got volunteer assistance from local high schoolers, church members and the Carlisle cross country team, among others. "(The SRSC staff) were great to work with. I wanted it here because I come out here and walk, and we want to support (the complex)."

Jason Dove, a Bassett resident, won the 5K with a time of 20 minutes, 14 seconds.

The PYSL, which uses the SRSC as its home base, had 40 youth teams from six age divisions playing Saturday, according to Peggy Cassady, the league's director of recreation.

The PYSL has more than 400 children involved, Cassady said. They compete in leagues ranging from the "Tiny Canes," a 4-and-younger division, to the 14-and-younger level.

The PYSL also has several youth travel teams of various age divisions, including 18-and-younger. Three of those travel teams played Saturday afternoon, while two more were scheduled to play games at 2 p.m. and 3:50 p.m. today.

Meanwhile, on the synthetic fields, Averett Unversity's men's soccer team hosted the Cougar Classic tournament Saturday afternoon. The Cougars beat the LaGrange Panthers, 3-2. In the tournament's other game, Guilford College downed the Piedmont College Lions, 5-1.

The Cougar Classic will continue on Sunday, when Averett plays Piedmont and LaGrange battles Guilford. Both games are set for 1 p.m. start times. Saturday evening, Martinsville's semi-pro football team, the Virginia Storm, beat the Carolina Gators, 13-12.

The combination of events had spectators from as far away as Georgia and Connecticut at the SRSC, according to Kimberly Payne, the complex's recently hired director of marketing.

Payne spent her day filming video and taking pictures of the busy complex for use with marketing materials, the SRSC's website and Youtube.

The complex also arranged for aerial photos to be taken Saturday of the busy venue and its 450 parking spaces, which were completely filled by 9:30 a.m and remained that way for much of the afternoon.

Payne said the photos and videos will be helpful in marketing so that "people can actually see people playing on the field and see what the fields look like."

She also spent some time speaking with spectators, inquiring about their experience at the complex and their plans for lodging, and dining in the area.

Payne said that event-filled days like Saturday's have a definite economic impact on the area. She estimated that at least 30 hotel rooms were booked by the college soccer teams, and noted that one of those teams had dinner reservations for 50 people at a Ridgeway restaurant Saturday evening.