The New York State Public High School Athletic Association has given the OK for invitational cross country meets to be held this fall, but will any actually take place in Section II?
“That’s a great question,” Section II girls’ cross country coordinator Ashley Gansle said. “I don’t have an answer to that. From the state, invys aren’t shut down, but we’re still waiting for Section II to weigh in.”
Veteran Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake boys’ cross country coach Chip Button last week found out the fate of his school’s invitational that is annually held in the second week of October at Saratoga Spa State Park and draws a large field of top-notch teams.
“They are limiting people at events [at state parks] to 50 people,” Button said. “There is no way to structure it to be anything.”
Many other invitational meets have been called off both in Section II and in other parts of the state due to coronavirus concerns.
“It will be difficult to have an invitational this fall because of the whole social distancing thing,” state girls’ cross country coordinator Marbry Gansle said. “Yes, we can have invitationals. How to implement them is another story.”
“I don’t think there will be any scenario where you’ll see the mega meets that we’ve seen in the past,” said Bill Sherman, who serves as the sport’s Colonial Council rep and coaches the Mohonasen girls’ team.
Last week, cross country was among the low risk sports that the NYSPHSAA said could be contested during the fall athletic season, which begins Monday. The NYSPHSAA issued numerous guidelines in the name of safety when announcing that decision which was based greatly on input from the New York State Department of Health.
“Safety is the No. 1 concern,” Ashley Gansle said. “We want to provide kids with the opportunity to compete in the safest possible manner.”
Social distancing and no contact between teammates and competitors are just two of the items stressed by the NYSPHSAA in terms of conducting a cross country event, and they could prove to be difficult to adhere to in an invitational environment where a slew of teams often gather.
“I don’t think there’s anything in Section II [scheduled],” Button said. “But everything is still changeable.”
Saturdays will still be a big day for cross country as far as Suburban Council schools are concerned, with the league this week putting out a dual meet schedule that has all races penciled in for that day starting in early October.
“I think schools are going to be laying low, focusing on league schedules and getting kids to compete,” said Ashley Gansle, who is the girls’ cross country coach at Suburban Council member Columbia. “We want to give them a little taste of what life was before [the coronavirus pandemic].”
“From the coaches and athletic directors I’ve talked with, in Section II it will be league competition and traditional dual meets to limit the number of athletes,” Sherman said. “I do know there is an appetite among the coaches to have invitationals, but only if we can do it safely. At the end of the day, our No. 1 thing is safety.”
According to the NYSPHSAA, state school teams are allowed to travel out of their respective sections for competition beginning Oct. 19.
“It’s possible a team could run their JVs in a dual meet and send their varsity out of the area for a meet,” Button said.
Section II officials last week announced that there would be no sectional fall sport championships this year, while earlier in the summer, the NYSPHSAA announced that there would be no regional and state-level competitions at the tail end of the fall campaign which was recently extended to Nov. 28.
“I’ve talked to a dozen coaches, and we are going to make a big push for [cross country] sectionals,” Sherman said. “Another idea we’ve talked about is a Class A, B, C and D invitational at the end of the season to give the kids a high-quality meet.”
Also in the discussion stage, Sherman said, is the resurrection of the Schenectady County Championship meet sometime in November.
Reach Jim Schiltz at [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.