Katie Krueger, left, and Bryn Hothem are veteran runners for the 2020 Marysville High School cross-country program. The Lady Monarchs competed in the 2019 Division I regional meet. (Journal-Tribune photo by Tim Miller)
Boys and girls cross-country programs throughout Ohio cleared a big hurdle on Tuesday en route to a return to normal in the midst of COVID-19.
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced during a press briefing that cross-country has been taken off the list of contact sports.
It has been placed on the list of non-contact activities that are being allowed to resume competition with other schools.
Earlier this summer, the sports of football, boys and girls soccer and cross-country were labeled contact sports.
As such, no school vs. school competition, such as preseason scrimmages, would be allowed.
Preseason scrimmages for football and soccer remain canceled at this time.
The start of the regular season in those sports still on the contact list remains uncertain.
Competition against other schools was originally approved for volleyball, boys and girls golf, girls tennis and girls volleyball under the no-contact designation.
The lists were originally mandated by the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA).
Since cross-country has been moved to the non-contact list, schools may now compete against other teams.
“I just heard the lieutenant governor’s announcement,” said Marysville High School cross-country coach Luke Sundermeier.
Just why was cross-country originally placed on the contact list?
“I feel it had to do with runners bunched up in a pack at the start and finish of races,” said Sundermeier. “They (the OHSAA) were trying to figure out what to do.”
Just what cross-country meets may look like during the 2020 campaign remains very much up in the air.
“We will have to await guidelines from the OHSAA and our own school district as to how meets can be conducted,” said Sundermeier. “For instance, will spectators be allowed at the meets?”
Another factor could be staggered starts for runners.
While Tuesday’s news was a big step for cross-country runners, the Monarch coach said there is still much to be determined.
“There are a lot of ideas being kicked around and we will just have to wait and see what sticks,” he said.
Through it all, Sundermeier does not want to see his boys and girls teams become distracted by all the news that is swirling in the air.
The season is scheduled to begin for Marysville High School with an invitational meet on Saturday, Aug. 15.
“This is what, Aug. 4,” said Sundermeier. “Aug. 15 isn’t far away.”
The Monarchs are set to compete at Fortress Obetz (the former Columbus Motor Speedway) on the new course that will be the home of the state cross-country meet in November.
“I still don’t know if that will happen,” said Sundermeier.
“We have to take this all in stride because it could all change again,” he said. “I’ve told our runners to just put their heads down and continue to train.”
Training has not been a problem for the MHS boys and girls teams.
“We have nearly 70 athletes who have put in approximately 7,000 miles of training this summer,” said Sundermeier. “They just want to compete.”
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