On Monday more than 50 coaches and meet directors from around the state met in a collaborative zoom meeting to discuss the upcoming Cross Country season. With recent guidelines set forth by the AHSAA and rules amendments by the NFHS, a common consensus is trying to be reached by meet directors so that Covid-19 modifications look similar from meet to meet.
AHSAA released guidelines that must be applied: Rule Modifications o 8-1-3a: Widening the course to at least 6 feet at its narrowest point when possible. Suggestions for meet directors on top of this:
Phase 1 - this is where we should be starting at the beginning of the season based on AHSAA guidelines released 7/23/2020:
1. Finish: Consider using finish corrals and FAT timing for larger meets as easier to distance at finish.
2. With no FAT timing system consider alternative means of finish place and time to address congestion at finish line.
3. Consider using image-based equipment at the finish to assist with avoiding congestion.
4. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and exercise equipment.
5. Pre and Post Game Ceremony: Establish cross country specific social distancing meet protocols including the elimination of handshakes before and after the match.
6. Furthermore for award ceremonies, have designated team "boxes" lined, coned, or caution taped kind of like the stands will be lined off at football stadiums- volunteers wearing masks and gloves - athletes must wear masks - space them out 6 feet apart. If you can't do this with spectators in the area, do not allow spectators during the award ceremonies.
7. Social distancing of at least 6 feet should be maintained at all times. No hugging, shaking hands, or fist bumps for support/encouragement.
8. Teams are in every other box on a start line and make sure each box is at least 6 feet wide if not more.
9. Assign all boxes to teams ahead of time.
10. The same team gets the same box for each race division if possible- number boxes ahead of time.
11. Lane the start boxes out from the start lines, perhaps 25-100 meters, basically creating start "chutes" and do this behind the start boxes as well.
12. Widen and expand finish areas dramatically
13. Coaches collect timing chips from their athletes and return in an envelope to the timing company so there is no congestion at finish lines
14. Cap the amount of runners at the meet based on the size of the starting line area & how many race divisions you are going to implement - How many boxes can you have on the starting area with at least 6 feet of distance between each team, and how many race divisions are you going to have? - Use this format instead of a team limit or a runner limit that is universal. Some courses have the capability to allow for more runners than others. For example, if you can create 12 team boxes in your starting area spaced out 6 feet, and are going to have 7 runners per division, with 8 divisions, you would be able to have around 672 runners at this event. - If you could have 24 team boxes 6 feet apart, and safely fit 10 runners in a division per the size and width of the course, with 10 separate race divisions, you could theoretically have 2,400 runners. All of the safety protocols must be in place and the venue must be large for such a thing to happen. Every single race division is unlikely to fill up at the 24 team max, these are just hypotheticals.
15. Meet directors should post their plans for their meet on their meet page ASAP so that teams can plan accordingly.
16. Strongly consider adding additional race divisions and be willing to start meets earlier and run later.
17. Cap the amount of runners a team can enter in every single race division to 7-15 runners based on your box size and starting area size.
18. If possible, move sectionals a week earlier, so that it is 16 days before State and can be completed so that a runner/team quarantine time would be possible before state if necessary. Sectional meets are a priority to complete.
19. Have the state meet over 2-3 days. 3 days would be ideal because you could spread out the classifications more.
20. Spectators, volunteers, and non-competitors must wear masks
21. Teams and their respective school systems must have a Covid 19 athletic competition waiver developed before they're allowed to participate
22. Consider requiring coaches to continue to screen athletes & provide meet directors with contact tracing info.
23. All teams entering meets are doing so at their own risk and responsibility thus meet directors and school systems of those meet directors are not held responsible for any sickness or injury. All of these best practices are mitigation practices, & will not completely eliminate the risk involved with competing
24. Consider always having your fastest race divisions as early as possible in the chance that committees are developed later in the season to determine postseason makeup
Phase 2: if an area has an increase in cases that causes school to be disrupted but athletics can continue (do everything above but modify further with the items in this phase than can work together)
1. Small group opposing team "waved" starts. - Small group opposing team waves would be for example: teams made up of 9-12 runners in each box are in a race, with each team choosing 3 runners to start in the first wave, then 3 more runners in the 2nd wave, every 20-30 seconds. This allows for teams to actually compete against each other. You can base the amount of runners released in a wave on your start area. Two being minimum and five being maximum.
2. Start half your meet at one time and the second half later. For instance 7:30 am and half of the teams broken up across multiple races between 7:30-9:30, then another set of teams between 10:30 and 12:30. This would give you time to do awards for the first group and get everyone out before the second group started.
3. The easiest way to organize it would be by classification.
4. Runners are only allowed to compete every 2 weeks. Not teams, but individual runners.
5. Limit the distance a team can travel for regular season meets to 3 hours or 150 miles.
6. Each team gets official vouchers from each kid on the team. 2-4 spectators per athlete allowed at a meet.
Phase 3: if an area is under heavy restrictions by local municipalities -
1. Team only releases or nordic skiing individual releases - desperation mode basically.
2. Runners are only allowed to compete every 2 weeks. Not teams, but individual runners.
3. limit the distance a team can travel for regular season meets - perhaps 60 minutes or 60 miles etc (no out of state)-
4. no spectators allowed at all- only coaches, athletes, officials and timers.
Alabama XC Meet Covid-19 Waiver Form 2020
1. By signing and turning in this form you are entering this meet understanding the risks involved with competition.
2. Under no circumstances does the meet director or school system of the meet director hold any responsibility or liability were there to be any sickness or injury incurred during this competition. Furthermore, by signing this you agree that your school, your athletes, team families, coaches, staff, and any spectators of your program, release liability of the host school, sponsors, medical staff, and event location owners and operators along with their heirs, assigns and legal representatives, and forever hold harmless, in the event that COVID-19 is contracted or any other illness or injury is incurred during or developing in the aftermath of.
3. It is also the responsibility of the coach and the program to screen their athletes and provide proof of contact tracing to the meet director as to who competed in which race division. Important to note that this process is not mandated by the AHSAA, NFHS, or CDC, just a recommended practice.
4. Coaches shall enter athletes in the correct race division up front and do your best to make no changes so that there are two verifiable methods as to which athlete ran in which race.
5. Coaches shall take responsibility in communicating the guidelines of the meet to their program and spectators of their program well in advance.
Head Coach name, Team Name, & School System Date