All season long high school cross country runners train for the postseason tournament.
The target date for the top-level runners to peak is the first Saturday of November. That’s when the Ohio High School Athletic Association Cross Country Championships take place at National Trail Raceway in Hebron, east of Columbus.
The state meet was scheduled to take place this past Saturday (Nov. 3). However, due to flooding and never-ending rain in the Columbus area last week, OHSAA officials made the decision this past Thursday to postpone the state cross country meet to this coming Saturday.
Since that decision, I’ve heard and read a lot of feedback on this situation.
The one glaring issue about the postponement was that it would conflict with Nike Cross Nationals (NXN) qualifying. Nike Cross Regionals (NXR) Midwest is Nov. 11 in Terre Haute, Indiana, a day after the state meet. This is an opportunity for some of Ohio’s top runners to qualify for this national meet. However, this setup will make it a huge challenge for an Ohio team to run two high-level 5,000-meter races in two days.
The question of changing venues on short notice came up by many.
Switching venues in less than 48 hours and staying on schedule, would not be easy, to say the least.
There are many things involved in switching sites. Marking the course and setting up the finish line chute are just a couple of the many tasks that are involved.
Parking is a huge concern. More than 12,000 spectators attend the state cross country meet. Not all venues would be able to hold the number of vehicles that park at the site for the state meet.
The idea of moving the tournament to a day during this week, on short notice, was also brought up by some. This would be challenging, because of the travel, athletes getting out of school, parents getting off work, just to name a few. If parents, grandparents, siblings, classmates and fans cannot make it to the state meet, then there goes the gate money.
Then there’s the physical aspect of postponing the state meet. These distance runners train for this week. It’s a tricky thing to get the athletes to peak at the right time of the season. Add in a delay, then it’s even more challenging.
This coming Saturday, there will be nearly 1,100 athletes competing at Hebron in the three-division, six-race event.
For most of these athletes, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In high school sports, no one is guaranteed the chance of competing at a state tournament.
For me, there are several things I will be looking for Saturday as I cover the state meet.
I want to see if the Minster girls’ team will win its third consecutive Division III title, and if Minster junior Emma Watcke will defend her individual state title.
I’m curious if Van Wert junior Caylee Phillips can stay with the lead pack of runners in the Division II girls’ race. Phillips is coming off a thrilling win at the Tiffin regional – a race she did not lead until the final 20-30 meters.
I’m really interested to see if the Northwest Conference will make some noise at Hebron. Lincolnview (boys and girls), Columbus Grove (boys and girls), Crestview (girls) and Spencerville’s Lillee Stewart will be representing the NWC.
Then, there’s usually the one performance from an athlete that no one saw coming.
For these athletes, Saturday’s state meet will be the pinnacle of their young athletic careers. It’s something they’ve been striving for. It’s the reason they put in the long miles during the hot summer months.
For the high school cross country runner, it all comes down to this race in November.
One thing is for certain; once these athletes toe the starting line Saturday, the postponement of the state meet will be nothing more than an afterthought.
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0468.