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Cross country moved to low-contact

Change means sport has lesser guidelines for 2020

Cross country a contact sport? The misnomer is over.

The Ohio Department of Health no longer considers cross country a high-impact sport, lumped in with football and soccer.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association said it “is working to confirm that cross country is now classified as a low-contact sport.”

Contact sports cannot currently compete against other schools in scrimmages or games, but low-contact sports can.

Diane Krumpak, former president of the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches, said the organization used the recommendations of the OHSAA, the governor’s office and ODH, along with some recommendations from the National Federation of State High Schools Associations.

Krumpak remains part of the OATCCC and said cross country is no longer listed under contact sports. It gives hope to area runners as some area races have been canceled this fall due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We’re really excited for cross country runners in Ohio (that) they may have an opportunity to compete,” she said.

Kim Grisdale sees her Poland High School team go through training at a former quarry pit, now a grassy hill full of winding trails. Social distancing is normally enforced on the paths by nature of the sport.

The course is on Poland Township property. The team is able to train — run sprints, hills and more.

Grisdale said it’s been a blessing having this property to train on during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That’s something we’re so fortunate with, the timing of it is incredible in terms of being there at the right time,” Grisdale said. “We would’ve been stuck, I think.”

Maplewood High School girls cross country coach Michelle Rupe said she’s practicing like normal, trying to stay positive for her athletes.

“They need this,” she said. “Even if we have a smaller season or less meets, that’s fine with me. I hope we have tournaments.”

Grisdale said running may change in the coronavirus era.

California has canceled its fall sports seasons, but it doesn’t mean Woodbridge High School in Irvine, Calif., doesn’t want to compete. The 40th annual Woodbridge Cross County Classic is pushed to January on 2021, but the Trample the Virus Virtual race is being run — bringing together teams from all over the country.

Grisdale said she received an email about the meet, which is Sept. 17-18.

Schools can compete as a team at an approved venue near them, or run as individuals, depending on what is allowed in their part of the country. Results can be submitted Sept. 14-18. See gvarvas.com for more information.

“We keep telling our kids this might not be the meet you want or have this season,” Grisdale said. “We’re going to have something because there are so many creative people in the running community that makes us to be able to race.”

Krumpak said the OHSAA has been working to move cross country’s classification from high to low contact.

“We’re appreciative of their support in all of this,” she said of the OHSAA. “We felt our sport could safely conduct meets if everyone cooperated.”

Rupe hopes there is a season for the Rockets.

Maplewood won the Division III Boardman girls regional title last season and returns its top four from that race, along with most of its team.

“I really want to get out there and see what we’ve got,” Rupe said.

Grisdale said she wants her team to learn from this experience during the pandemic, more than being a distance runner.

“One of the important things about sports is life lessons,” she said. “To me, a life lesson we’re learning right now is wear your mask to take care of other people. Our kids come to practice and they have masks on when they get there. You don’t run with a mask, obviously. I think they’re good kids, and they understand that’s not doing something for themselves, but they’re doing something for someone next to them. I think that’s been a neat lesson to see them learning and kind of learn ourselves as well.”

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