Cross country programs all throughout Los Angeles County are preparing to compete, but COVID-19 restrictions remain in the way.
Despite the CIF-SS announcing last week that fall playoff tournaments and championships will be canceled for the 2021 season, hope remained that regular seasons would continue to take place.
One of the rare fall sports that did not have to worry about the possibility of facing a dropped season was cross country. Under the section’s regulations, cross country meets were cleared to occur as long as Governor Gavin Newsom dropped the state’s stay-at-home order, which is precisely what he did on Monday.
The decision was massive for the sport as it gives cross country programs statewide the opportunity to hold meets immediately as long as they follow their county’s guidelines. These exact guidelines, however, are continuing to make it difficult for competition to recover from its 11-month hiatus.
Several programs are simply facing challenges from their school districts, as some districts are not granting permission to compete. Nevertheless, even private schools are facing incredible hurdles; hinting that perhaps public schools may not be as close as we think to return to the track.
One of the challenges facing teams is finding places to compete. With several meets normally being held at public parks, schools need permits in order to do so – something the Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation is not handing out at this time. Meaning, if meets do take place in the near future, several teams will be forced to compete on their home tracks, according to Crespi High athletic director Brian Bilek in an interview with the Daily News.
Along with these issues of finding homes for meets, there are also concerns when considering transportation. With L.A. County still implementing their social distancing protocol of 6 feet apart, teams will need to avoid collective transportation since nearly every bus at a campus’ disposal is incapable of fitting a whole team of players who can properly socially distance. As Moorpark High athletic director Rob Dearborn noted to the Daily News, teams will need to become reliant on players “driving themselves or carpooling” when their season takes place.
Athletic departments from all over the state are continuing to do everything they can to bring competition back to their student-athletes, as is the CIF. However, although the door is open for cross country’s return, several L.A. County schools are being asked to force their way into the house.
Ultimately, the process for a complete return will take a little more patience from all parties involved. Several programs in the area, particularly private and charter, have noted they do not expect a return until the first weekend of February. For public schools, a timeline still remains up in the air.
Newsom’s decision earlier this week was clearly a positive step forward in allowing student-athletes the opportunity to return to action. Yet, it was not the final step. Eagerness will simply have to continue.