State cross country to have a different look but the same overall feel

(Dan Mohrmann/CHSAANow.com)

COLORADO SPRINGS — For the most part, the fall 2020 state championship season has looked very close to normal. The biggest noticeable difference is the spreading out or relocation of fans at boys tennis and softball.

The competition?

Looks the same.

The championship celebrations?

Those also look the same.

Perhaps the wildcat among the four sports originally green-lit for fall competition was going to be cross country. A preview of how state cross country will look happened back on Sept. 11 at the Cheyenne Mountain Stampede. The Norris Penrose Event Center, the annual host for the state meet, put on the two-day event with officials getting a good look at how things will look on Oct. 17.

The results were encouraging.

"I think the racing piece of the event went great," Cheyenne Mountain athletic director Kris Roberts said. "By and large, kids and coaches did a great job of working with the protocols that are in place right now."

Those protocols will make the state meet look slightly different from any other year. To start, each race will begin with a staggered start from the competitors. They will be sent off in waves which means the winners will actually be determined in more of a time trial manner rather than simply going to the runner that crosses the finish line first.

Runners also have to wear a mask at the starting line and put it back on once they cross the finish. There will be no loitering around the finish line as the competitors will have to walk straight out of the stadium once the race is finished.

Most notably, the stadium bowl inside of Norris Penrose will be closed to spectators. The cheers that are normally directed at the runners as they near the finish will be gone. But the important thing to keep in mind is that those absent cheers mean the kids will get the opportunity to claim championships throughout the course of the day.

"The facility did a great job of limiting the people to that 250 mark at any one gathering," Roberts said. "By and large, to the school, kids and coaches, everyone did a fantastic job doing what we have to do to make the event successful."

Cheyenne Mountain serves as the host of the event each year and Roberts receives help from other athletic directors and administrators. He's seen the event at its peak and now he's seen what it will look like in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As with anything in these situations, there are certainly concerns when it comes to the event going off without a hitch, but the test run at the Cheyenne Mountain Stampede helped assuage some big concerns.

"I was really interested to see what spectators would do with our restrictions and expectations," Roberts said. "I was really pleased with the initial (Class) 4A race on Friday and how everyone saw the value in our kids getting to compete this fall. They followed those protocols and rules."

He's expecting the same level of cooperation this week. And should the guidelines and restrictions be followed in the same manner they were over a month ago, there should be a full day of high school athletes competing the best of their ability, which is what the event is all about.