Cross country team looks to build on productive summer as practices begin
Wed, 08/12/2020 - 3:34pm caleb
MHSAA classifies cross country as ‘lower-risk’ sport, offers guidelines that include runner limits per race and widening of courses
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
The varsity cross country program from Grayling High School started its official practice sessions for the 2020 season on Wednesday, August 12, and the coach of the team said the group was able to put in a lot of work during the summer to get ready for the upcoming campaign.
“I’m excited because the team has really put in the time during the offseason. I think we’re going to see a lot of personal records this season,” Coach Justin Andre said.
Coach Andre said the program’s overall numbers are decent and he has a mix of experienced runners and young athletes.
“Girls, I have about six or seven. Twelve boys right now. We have a few new kids. We just had a couple kids transfer in. So far, we’re looking okay,” Coach Andre said.
Coach Andre said he wasn’t certain what to expect with regard to numbers because the fall sports coaches were not able to have their usual meetings with prospective athletes in the spring of this year because the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of schools.
“I’m really excited at the turnout,” Coach Andre said during the team’s first official practice on August 12.
Coach Andre said many runners were able to “log miles” during the offseason and prepare for a campaign that – if it is able to proceed as planned – will feature some adjustments to the way races were conducted during past seasons.
The Michigan High School Athletic Association cancelled the end of the winter sports season and all of the 2020 spring sports campaign earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the MHSAA attempts to restart sports with the fall of 2020 season, the association has sorted its sports into three categories – “lower-risk,” “moderate-risk,” and “high-risk” – and offered different regulations and guidelines for each individual sport.
The MHSAA has included cross country in the “lower-risk” category.
Coach Andre said the MHSAA has instituted a limit on the number of runners allowed in races, which has changed the size and format of several scheduled cross country events for 2020. Spectator limits are a possibility, Coach Andre said.
“Some of these races might look a little different,” Coach Andre said.
MHSAA guidelines for cross country include: “Physical distancing of at least six feet should be maintained at all times. No hugging, shaking hands, or fist bumps for support/encouragement. Cross country meets should consider using staggered, wave, or interval starts. Consider widening the course to at least six feet at its narrowest point. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and exercise equipment. Establish cross country specific physical distancing meet protocols including the elimination of handshakes before and after the match.”
The MHSAA also asks event staff to adjust timing procedures and finish line areas to decrease congestion.
The limit is 70 runners per race this year, according to the MHSAA; however, “the 70 competitor limit does not apply to dual meets (with just two schools present). The 70 number is meant to help facilitate small teams with fewer numbers so they are not restricted to duals, but might have a tri or quad with less than 70 runners.”
“Everyone needs to be responsible in order for us to come back to cross country. There is not a specific restriction on invitationals, but the strong recommendation is NOT to conduct them, especially early on in the season. The guidance is very clear that there are to be no large-scale events,” according to the MHSAA.
Coach Andre said the team’s first meet of the 2020 season – the Ryan Shay Memorial Invitational slated for August 22 – has been cancelled, and he’s expecting more schedule changes as schools attempt to adjust their invitational races to comply with MHSAA guidelines. The Grayling Invitational – scheduled for Monday, September 28 – has been changed to a quad meet, Coach Andre said.
Coach Andre said student-athletes can still sign up for Grayling High School or Grayling Middle School cross country. Contact him via email at Director@hansonhills.org for more information.