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Will there be a fall 2020 cross-country season?

The upcoming cross-country season will certainly look a little different, but at least it remains a possibility

Most runners are currently training for a far-away fall season. Some are hoping they’ll get to run a fall marathon, some are anticipating getting on a track and for the Canadian collegiate runners, they’re looking forward to the cross-country season. However, a fall cross-country season hinges on several things, including the reopening of university and college campuses.

Pennock, Black and Gay post-race. Photo: Maxine Gravina

Christina Paxson, president of Brown University, wrote an Op-Ed for the New York Times on Sunday titled “College Campuses Must Reopen in the Fall. Here’s How We Do It.” Paxson believes that reopening these campuses should be considered a national priority and that institutions should be developing protocols “that build on three basic elements of controlling the spread of infection: test, trace and separate.”

While opening campuses and running sports programs are technically separate issues, if one happens, it’s likely that the other will as well. If it’s deemed safe enough to put people in dorms, it’s safe enough to run cross-country meets.

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The fall sporting season remains uncertain

Felix Lapointe is the provincial head coach at the Quebec Track and Field Branch and the head cross-country coach at Laval University. Lapointe says that there remains so much that’s unknown.

“Every week we have new information, but as of right now, U Sports is planning to have a fall season, so we are too.” Laval is scheduled to host the national U Sports cross-country championships in November. 

OUA Cross-Country Championships
Photo: Canadian Running

Despite this, Lapointe isn’t certain that there will be a full season. “There’s the possibility to start late, maybe in October or even November.” Even with a late start, he adds that it’s likely that events will face an entry cap to limit field sizes. Lapointe ballparks that figure at 250 people.

Another barrier for fall sports will be coaching. Lapointe explains that he’s thankfully in a full-time, paid position, but not every running coach has that luxury. “I’d say about 50 per cent of RSEQ coaches are volunteers or paid a very small salary. Because we’ll likely have to run multiple practices so that runners can train in small groups. It’ll be hard to co-ordinate for someone who has another job too.”

Western Cross-Country Invitational
Photo: Canadian Running

Why the cross-country season stands a chance

Cross-country is thankfully a sport that doesn’t need to have a preseason to compete in a championship event. All teams are invited to attend U Sports cross-country, it’s just up to their athletics department to send them. For cross-country, even if the entire fall sports season isn’t possible, a partial season could be a viable solution.

As of now, Laval is prepared to host a national championships, but as we’ve learned, things can change quickly.