Idaho's Approach to High School XC in a Pandemic

Updated: Sep 18, 2020

Runners taking strides at Travers Park in Sandpoint on August 28, 2020. (Keenan Gray/The Runner WA)

This isn't going to be a normal article for you all to read, if in fact you actually read it. The point of this piece is to be informative, but also opinionated, because this is something that needs to be shared. So sit back, relax, have some snacks too, and dive right into what cross country is like in the world of COVID-19.

Most of you saw the big news, or announcement I should say, that I have decided to start covering high school cross country in Idaho because there are sports currently going on this fall over there. Since there won't be cross country happening in Washington until March, at least we think that's the case, I really don't have any content to produce.

Which then led to many questions being asked specifically this one: Why Idaho? First of all, I think you should ask me "Why not Idaho?". It's the only state that is within a decent amount of distance from where I am currently living.

Another reason why I am going to Idaho to cover their cross country season is similar to the reason I started to cover cross country in Washington...lack of coverage. You all know how passionate I am about this sport, and want to give as much attention to it like all the other sports get.

Last Friday, I woke up early in the morning, 6:40 a.m. if you were really curious, to a make 90 minute trip to Sandpoint, Idaho, a town I have never been to, for a quad-meet at a local park. When it comes to covering high school sports, yes, I will wake up that early to watch you all run fast.

Like any great journalist should do, I did some research on the park I was going to see how big it was because my concern for social distancing and if it was big enough to hold such a large gathering, like a cross country meet. Rest assured, it was large enough, not only to hold a quad-meet, but a big invite such as Nike Twilight in Marysville, or the Bellarmine Invite in Tacoma.

My first thought when I showed up to Travers Park was "Will I be the only one with a mask?" because I didn't really know Idaho's protocols with COVID, especially since they are allowing kids to compete in sporting events. Coming from Washington, our guidelines are a little more strict than Idaho's.

As soon as I got out of the car, I instantly saw numerous people wearing masks, which is was an instant sign of relief knowing that other states are taking this matter very seriously. But I'd also be lying to you if I said I didn't see anyone not wearing a mask. I would say it was about 50/50 when it came to those wearing masks and those who weren't. Families, who came to watch their athlete run, were in groups together and did not engage with others unless they were wearing masks.

This was a pretty massive park than I had expected, so the amount of space the teams had was plenty enough for them all to be socially distant to where they wouldn't come in contact with each other. Teams had their own "camp-sites" for tents set up and the athletes and coaches were all wearing masks. I was pretty confident each school and their district have taken the safety pre-cautions to allow these kids to participate because each team made sure they did not leave their tents until warm-up or when it was race time.

It will be hard to describe this next part going into what pre-race was like, but hopefully I can give you somewhat of a mental image you can draw in your mind.

Idaho isn't the only state allowing their kids to compete in sports this fall, but there are different methods as how everyone runs a meet. There was a video from a high school cross country race in Michigan where the athletes were required to wear masks at the start of the race, or perhaps they were required to wear them the entire race. I'm positive they didn't have to wear them the entire race and they were allowed to throw their masks off at some point at the beginning of the race. But because the kids were all staggered right next to each other at this Michigan race, it makes sense as to why they wore masks.

Sandpoint High School, who was the host of this meet, didn't require the athletes who were competing to wear masks at the start line. You're in an open environment so it makes total sense not to wear a mask, if you are a competitor of a sport at least.