2020 XC – Let the Kids Run, and Here’s How!

The sport of XC has been identified as “low risk” by the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) as well as the State of Pennsylvania. The USATF along with the US Olympics and Paralympic Committees have also classified road races and trail races with staggered starts and social distancing as “low risk.”

PIAA Executive Director, Dr. Bob Lombardi has stressed a strong desire to get in as much as possible this fall. Lombardi stated this on behalf of the PIAA Board’s direction, “…we are willing to get as much as we possibly can, where we can get it. If one part of the state could possibly play 75% of a schedule and another part of the state can play 25%, the board is ok with that because we want kids to get as much as they possibly can, where they can.” The next PIAA board meeting is scheduled for July 29th where any potential modifications to the fall season will be discussed.

That said, here is a potential playbook for how XC can and should be allowed to proceed this season if modifications to traditional XC racing needs to be made:

Proposal for safe return of 5k cross country competitions this fall

Specific COVID Precautions to implement for 5k cross country events:

1. Individual Time Trial (ITTs) Racing. Athletes enter course one at a time, separated by :30s-:60s, defined by host site and timing capabilities. Try to group slowest to fastest to allow faster athletes the opportunity too chase someone ahead of them. :30s gap between #1 and #2, or #2 and #3, etc…is still a big gap to close. #2 would have an advantage on #1 if the race ran fastest to slowest.

2. Minimizing total attendance throughout the competition through staggered start times and increasing the time between races to allow for a “clearing out.” ONLY 2 SPECTATORS ARE ALLOWED PER COMPETING ATHLETE.

3. Portable toilets separated by at least 6 feet with doors alternating in different directions. All toilets will come with hand-sanitizing gel. Schools should consider renting 2-3 portable toilets for regular season meets. They are easy to space out thus making it possible to social distance where in-building bathrooms may not.

4. Create staging areas where social distancing is possible. Only registered athletes will be allowed into “staging area.” Staging area’s are only open to athletes 5 minutes prior to their scheduled start time. The maximum number of athletes permitted into a staging area will be determined by size of said staging area. In an ITT, each athlete has a specific start time. If you are scheduled to enter the course at 10:33a, you are permitted inside the staging area at 10:28. If :30s separates start times for each athlete no more than 10 runners will be inside the staging area at any one time.

5. Athletes and spectators must wear masks upon arrival to the facility

6. All in attendance MUST wear masks when social distancing isn’t possible.

7. Spectators and coaches must wear masks when lining the course to cheer on runners. Spectators – this is a small price to pay if you want to be allowed at meets. There is discussion about not allowing any spectators (so this is a small price to pay). If health conditions prevent you from wearing a mask then you probably shouldn’t be outside your home exposing yourself to others. If you do come and can’t wear a mask, PLEASE take personal accountability and keep your distance from others.

8. Thermal temperature screening will be completed on each athlete, coach, official, and volunteer. Anyone with a temperature of >100.4 degrees will not be permitted to compete or participate. Temperature can be documented on the results page as proof of completion. DO NOT ARRIVE TO THE EVENT IF YOU HAVE A FEVER OR ARE EXHIBITING ANY OF THE FOLLOWING SYMPTOMS: COUGH, SORE THROAT, SHORTNESS OF BREATH. DO NOT REGISTER FOR AN EVENT IF YOU HAVE TRAVELLED TO ANY OF THE FOLLOWING STATES WITHIN THE PREVIOUS 14 DAYS AS DEFINED BY THE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA (ALABAMA, ARIZONA, ARKANSAS, CALIFORNIA, FLORIDA, GEORGIA, IDAHO, IOWA, KANSAS, LOUISIANA, MISSISSIPPI, NEVADA, NORTH CAROLINA, OKLAHOMA, SOUTH CAROLINA, TENNESSEE, TEXAS, UTAH). Pre-assigned race number/bibs are only to be distributed once the athlete has been screened and temperature checked.

9. Volunteers will wear masks when social distancing is not possible.

10. Athletes are asked to leave the facility and/or social distance (with only members of their team) post individual run. The goal is to reduce crowd size and group gatherings at every point of the day. Athletes should be encouraged to leave the facility grounds within 30 minutes post-run.

11. Carry in Carry out rules apply for food and drinks. Athletes, coaches, spectators, and volunteers are encouraged to bring their own water bottles. Concessions to be determined by host site.

12. Facility will maintain less than 250 individuals in and around the course by adhering to the following:

– runners enter the course individually every :30s which will prevent more than 50 (approx.) runners on the course at any one time. This also prevents starting lines with large numbers of individuals in close proximity.

– each athlete is allowed 2 spectators, meaning only 100 spectators will be permitted along the course at any one time. Spectators are asked not to aggregate along the course until 10 minutes prior to their athletes start time. Upon athletes finishing the race, associated spectators must immediately return to their cars.

– each athlete is given 30 minutes to cool down and return to their car before being asked to leave the facility

– athletes must warm-up and cool-down away from the XC course to maximize social distancing efforts and minimize group sizes

– upwards of 20 volunteers and officials will be present throughout the duration of the race day

– there will be a minimum of 30 minutes between races

13. If virtual schooling – move all meets, including regular season meets, to Saturdays to allow better and/or more opportunities for transportation.

14. Starting line and finishing line can’t be at the same location

Additional state requirements for COVID-19 that can easily be met during “outdoor sporting events” that were not previously addressed include:

1. A primary point of conduct will be identified for all questions related to COVID-19 and this information will be made publicly available.

2. Reporting requirements if an athlete or spectator falls ill – individual or representative of said individual (coach, parent, guardian, etc…) will make the Meet Director aware of any positive COVID19 diagnosis in the days following any event. Contact information will be part of the athlete or team registration process. Those individuals who would have been in the “staging area” with the COVID-19+ athlete will be notified of the positive test result.

3. Activities that increase the risk of exposure to saliva are not permitted. This includes NO CHEWING GUM, NO SPITTING, NO LICKING FINGERS, AND NO EATING SUNFLOWER SEEDS.

4. All present on race day are to avoid shaking hands, fist bumps, or high fives before, during, or after competition.

5. 30-60 minutes will separate each race to allow for turnover of athletes, spectators, and volunteers. Post-season races like Districts and States that have 6 separate races can be spread out over a weekend. For example, Class A competes on Friday, Class AA Saturday morning, Class AAA Saturday afternoon.

6. Separate entrance and exits will be identified to minimize cross traffic.


If the PIAA does indeed cancel the season, then I would propose the following, adhering to the rules and regulations defined above:

1. The local running community band together to create 6-8 “unattached” races total on consecutive weekends at various host sites throughout Central PA with a championship race 2 weeks following final “series” race.

2. Middle School Division (7th and 8th graders); High School Division (9th-12th graders); Collegiate/Open Division

3. Individual Time Trial (ITT) races with runners entering the course every :30s, slowest to fastest by 5k PR. This allows the “fastest” runners the opportunity to chase those ahead of them.

4. Host Site (with strong volunteer support) and Meet Director will manage logistics on race days

5. Host sites will manage parking. All entry fees and spectator/parking fees will be collected and retained by host site.

6. Host sites to provide “Porta Pots” to allow for social distancing between each toilet.

7. Host site to determine if Sunday’s can be used as a bad weather make-up day

8. Entry Fee – $10/runner (open for discussion)

9. Spectator Fee – $5/person (open for discussion) – to be collected during parking. Athlete does not pay an additional $5. (Ex: 2 parents (2x$5 spectator fee) and athlete ($10 entry fee) would pay $20 total). Please have exact change to minimize contact with parking attendants. Limit 2 spectators per registered athlete.

10. Spectators must wear masks when cheering for athletes on the course and when within 6 feet of any other spectator. Masks must be worn when paying parking attendants and when checking in. Masks must be worn when social distancing can’t be safely accomplished.

11. Volunteer support is essential.

A. Host site provides volunteers for parking/spectator fees (masks to be worn).

B. Host site provides volunteers for “Check-in” tent – athletes must check-in at least 30-minutes before scheduled start time (masks to be worn). Athlete must pay their entry fee and be thermal temperature screened to receive their race number. Athletes will not be allowed into the staging area without a number.

C. Staging Area – runners will be allowed entrance to the staging area 5 minutes prior to their scheduled start time and will be socially distanced (separated by at least 6 feet from other runners and volunteers.) This limits the number of athletes in the staging area at any one time to 10. Staging area volunteers order athletes in order of scheduled start times.

D. Starters – Starters will ensure athletes enter the course every :30s. A clock will be running to provide the athlete a visual cue for when to start. Starter’s ensure the correct athlete is starting and that they do not leave the gate early.

E. Course Monitors – will be located at major turning points on the course and/or every 0.5 miles to ensure accurate course navigation by athletes and to ensure athlete safety. Will report any needs to Athletic Trainers.

F. Finishing judges – at least two finishing judges will record finishing times. Times will be submitted/announced to results volunteers who will average the times and report to centralparunner.com for posting. If using a timing system, finishing judges will simply notate visual finishing times to serve as a back-up.

G. Results – Results will be managed by centralparunner and at least one result’s volunteer. Final time will be adjusted as follows if using manual timers – avg finishing time minus the total number of minutes:seconds the athlete entered the course after the time trial started (see example below). If using timing system – final time minus however many minutes passed before the athlete entered the course.

12. At race completion, runners will be permitted to cool down, but then are asked to leave the premises through exit.

13. Race results and updates will be posted throughout the day @centralparunner on twitter. Final results will be posted by midnight day of the race on centralparunner.com.

14. All runners will compete unattached.


Sample Starter/finisher/timer/results sheet:


Typical Race Day:

Saturday (bad weather make-up on Sunday)

Runners are to check-in 30-minutes prior to scheduled start time. Pay $10 at registration desk to receive your race number. Race numbers are to be displayed on the front of your shirt. Athletes can cool down once finished, but are asked to leave the premises within 30 minutes of race finish.

Schedule (open for discussion with host site):

8:30am-10:30am: MS Race – capped at 100 boys and 100 girls (200 total runners = $2000 in entry fees)

11:00am- 3:00pm: HS Race – capped at 200 boys and 200 girls (400 total runners = $4000 in entry fees). Could split up HS races into 2-4 separate races for boys and girls to reduce impact from varying weather conditions.

3:30pm-5:30pm: College/Open Race – capped at 100 men and 100 women (200 total runners = $2000 in entry fees)

Estimate 1.5 spectators per MS (300 spectators x $5 = $1500) and HS athlete (600 spectators x $5 = $3000) and 0.5 spectators per College/Open athlete (100 x $5 = $500)

Total Revenue potential = ~$13000


2-3 Athletic Trainers for 8 hours = ~$750

“Porta Pots” x 4 = ~$1000 (~$200-250/toilet with hand gel)

Numbered stickers to serve as “race bibs” = ~ $110

OR, use of a timing company at ~$1k-$2k (~8hr day)

Incidentals = $500

Total expenses = $2360-$4360

The numbers above are all estimates and can be changed

Looking into a timing system, but to keep costs down may need to do without, hence the sample starter/finisher/timer/results sheet above.

Net Profit potential –> $13,000 – $2,360/$4360 = $10,640-$8,640

T-shirt sales (TBD) – Requires race sponsorships. Sponsorships would cover all races in the COVID-19 XC series. All proceeds would go into a “centralparunner.com” scholarship fund for deserving senior student athletes at the end of the school year. A small advisory board would be established to review applicants and determine scholarship recipients and amounts.