Like everything in life these days, many questions and potential contingency plans have to be sorted out.

But unless the current coronavirus climate gets significantly worse, one high school fall sport that appears to be in good shape for its season — perhaps even on time — is cross country.

“I think we’d have an easier time to pull it off,” Lafayette High coach Tim Lemaire said.

“We’re outside and not touching each other, so we’re pretty safe,” Teurlings Catholic coach Kelly LaMaison said.

Of course, that doesn’t mean meets would run as they always have.

Even being an outdoor sport that doesn't require contact, changes will be necessary.

In the mind of Erath coach Mark Theall, the fans will be in the center of such adjustments.

“We’ve talked and we’re still hoping to have some kind of season,” he said. “Trying to keep spectators 15 or 20 feet away from the course is going to be the hardest part.

“Parents always want to get on the (finish) line and we can’t have that.”

The most complicated decision, however, is how to handle the start of each race where the most participants are the closest to each other.

“The running start has to be at least 130 meters, so that they can spread out enough before they make the turn,” Theall explained.

Several different methods have been discussed. Lemaire said starts could be staggered where electronic timing is available. For example, 20 or so runners can start and then two minutes later, 20 more can go.

LaMaison said there are other options such as the “waterfall start” and the “alley start.”

All of them are designed to avoid all the athletes from being “on top of each other.”

The solution for just about every potential obstacle is limiting the teams and participants.

“The most cost effective thing is just having smaller meets,” Lemaire said. “Going back to the good old days when we quad meets.”

Lemaire said keeping meets at five or fewer teams with a limit of seven runners per team would even allow for manual timing.

Of course, smaller meets create another issue, requiring more meets than usual each weekend to give more programs the opportunity to run.

Depending on how organized the area cross country coaches wanted to get, Lemaire suggested a coaches committee would even go so far as to create every school’s schedule.

For example, on a given weekend, Lafayette High could host five or so schools and perhaps so could Erath and ESA. All interested schools could be assigned to one of the three events each weekend.

For coaches yearning for organization in the middle of the chaotic coronavirus shutdown, it would provide structure.

”I’m retired Army, so I like to be prepared ahead of time and have more than just one plan going in,” Theall said.

Theall and Lemaire both said they don’t plan on making any out-of-town bus trips this season, staying within a half hour from home.

LaMaison said she’s still hoping to make some trips, but that remains undetermined. Some bigger meets can get to 300 or 400 runners.

“I’m normally someone who is organized and has a plan, but you can’t really have a plan right now,” she said. “I’m just happy that we can compete and can train and that our kids can be with each other and be out and about and improve. Wherever we can compete in a safe way is where we’re going to compete.”

Lemaire said a really out-of-the-box plan could be hosting a small and big school meet on one site with different starting times, essentially one of the groups running when the junior varsity meet would typically go.

“It just depends on which phase we’re in,” LaMaison said. “Nothing is set in stone yet. Right now, we’re winging it and trying to come up with plans in case we’re still in phase two or in case we’re in phase three. We just have to act responsibly. Anybody helping out or spectating will have to wear a mask.”

Neither LaMaison or Theall have had athletes test positive yet, only a few quarantined because of family members.

Lemaire said he had to shut down for multiple weeks because his children tested positive, but only because someone suggested they get tested.

“Other than that, they would have never gotten checked,” Lemaire said. “They had no symptoms.”

Even with practice shut down, though, the sport allows the conditioning to continue.

“The great thing about cross country is that you don’t really need anyone else to practice,” Lemaire said. “It’s not like football or volleyball. You can run anywhere anytime.”


Email Kevin Foote at kfoote@theadvocate.com.