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Nick Smith, the cross-country and track coach for the West Feliciana High School Saints, has been honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Louisiana Track and Field Coaches Association.

Ever heard of a cross country meet with deliberate social distancing? Neither had St. Michael's Neil Borel or West Feliciana’s Nick Smith until a few months ago.

Now each coach is set to host one to open the 2020 season Saturday. St. Michael’s Bayou Boogie Invitational is set to begin at 8:15 a.m. at Highland Road Park. West Feliciana’s 21st Cross Country Relay begins at 9 a.m. at the West Feliciana Parish Sports Park.

“We know we will be under the microscope. … We will be the guinea pigs because this is the first meet,” Borel said. “But it is something we’ve been talking about as coaches since May. We know what we’re going to do. Depending on what happens, we’ll make adjustments as needed for the next meet.”

Meets at Highland are known for large numbers of runners and teams. But in the coronavirus pandemic era, things are different. Meets are limited to 10 teams, and each school can enter a maximum of 10 runners per race.

Runners wear masks in warm-ups. A portion of team members line up in assigned socially distant boxes. Runners will take off in 30-second intervals. Each race will consist of three waves of runners.

Coaches will record times for their runners and submit them to St. Michael. Volunteers at the finish line will instruct competitors to leave the race area and park as soon as possible. Teams are allowed two spectators per competitor.

The girls varsity race starts at 8:15 a.m., with the boys race at 9 a.m. with two junior varsity races to follow. Teams entered include host St. Michael, Catholic, Parkview Baptist, Live Oak, St. Joseph’s Academy, The Dunham School, Ascension Catholic, Brother Martin and Mount Carmel.

West Feliciana relay

Races begin at 9 a.m. with the boys varsity race. The girls varsity race is set for 10 a.m.

A limit of 25 teams can compete in each race, with each competitor running 1½ miles so that only 25 runners are on the course at a time.

“The biggest difference for us is having to divide up the races. Normally, we have the boys and girls run together,” Smith said. “Each has their own baton, so that cuts down on individual contact.”

Schools set to compete are Episcopal, West Feliciana, Denham Springs, Walker, Slaughter Community Charter, Catholic-Pointe Coupee, Zachary, Brusly, Dutchtown and St. Amant.

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