COVID-19 has caused uncertainty throughout every community, even that of professional sports. Players in the NBA, for example, must live in a ‘Bubble’ with no outside contact in order to compete safely. So how has COVID-19 affected less major sports, such as high school teams? The Greylock Cross Country team has had to deal with this question first hand.
Wearing masks, keeping a distance of at least six feet from others, and avoiding contact is difficult to apply to sports. However, the cross country team has been quite understanding and willing to apply these rules for the sake of the health of their teammates. These are the guidelines the state has mandated all high school sports teams follow.
Unlike before, the cross country team is now divided into groups, or pods, to keep distance from others. Pods are created to minimize large crowds of people breathing heavily through masks near each other. There are five pods of around ten people that workout and run together. The team mostly warms up and cools down together, but, between these group activities, pods go off and workout or run by themselves.
Before, runners would be able to choose the people they would run with and sometimes they would even all run as a team. Now, they must stay within their respective pods for the entire season while wearing masks. But when runners are by themselves, or not within close proximity to others (at least ten feet away), the student-athletes are given the option to slide down their masks. Students also have socially-distanced water and mask breaks throughout the practice. In abiding by these regulations, cross country will be one of the few highschool sports with a competitive season.
This cross country season will have six races, three at home and three away. Due to the new safety guidelines, the races will differ from those in past years. In these races, the runners will run in pods and there will only be dual meets (races of only two teams). The purpose of having dual meets is to lessen the number of people at each event. The pods will start staggered by three minutes. Each runner will have the chance to be in a different wave each meet.
Lily McDermott, a third-year cross country runner, said, “It’s a lot more individualized because we can’t use the other teams to work off of… It’s harder because those people aren’t there to push you… but we have to do what we can to keep us safe.”
To avoid breathing difficulties created by masks during a race, when a student is running alone, they will be able to remove their mask. However, when they are running by someone, they will have to put on their mask. To avoid dozens of spectators, only teams and coaches are allowed to be at meets. Some parents are also allowed to spread out amongst the course to help mark out trails and ensure runners stay on course. This opportunity for parents allows seniors to have their parents there for their last races of highschool.