After talking with Memphis Twilight meet director Bill Hoffman a few minutes ago, he announced the City Auto Memphis Twilight cross country race this year is being cancelled.
And yes, the familiar "Due to Covid-19" is the culprit.
I watched this meet grow over many years into clearly one of the largest twilight cross country races in the country. A well organized, timely and competitive event for sure that continues to grow. That growth is what killed the meet this season. Coach Hoffman looked at reducing the number of teams to get within some guidelines in an attempt to keep this meet on the calendar, but that didn't seem to fit the spirit of what this meet is all about. Not only has this meet become the kick-off event of the year for cross country for a lot of teams, it's become a celebration, even a showcase of cross country itself.
It's a place for middle school athletes, varsity and JV high school athletes and college athletes all come together on one evening in one place. I've watched several athletes compete here in the middle school category only to come back years later and compete in their first ever college race.I was looking forward to seeing that again this year! I've seen great athletes excel on this course and some struggle.Some say it's a fairly easy course and yet some dread it. It's a place where you stand on the box and immediately realize cross country season is here. And if you haven't put in the work, you will know it once you make that last loop around the stadium to the finish.
Coach Hoffman must have gone through dozens or even hundreds of iterations to try and figure out a good way to keep this meet going this year. So many variables to consider... social distancing of athletes... of spectators... having spectators... medical considerations... staff and competitor protocols... common areas... no common areas... tracing... waves... multiple start times.... You name it, he considered it all.
In the end, a large meet isn't something that is possible to put on amid this continually growing coronavirus concern. It's sad, but it's true.
Hats off to Bill for doing everything in his power to try and make this happen - lack of sleep aside, I know he would do it again if he had to.
So do you think this will impact other cross country events? Large events, yes.
Smaller events, probably not.
I believe cross country races can still be safely conducted as long as the size of the races stays small for the time being.
Maybe going back to the old school cross country might be the thing to do.4 or 5 teams at the most. You start out of the box, run for a few hundred meters, then go into a tight opening among a wooded area and run through the woods almost in single file until you exit and dash for the finish. It used to be like that and if you weren't the first one to the woods, you got stuck behind someone trying to find a place to pass, which was almost impossible.
Heck, there are probably lots of other options to put on a race. For one as large and competitive as the Twilight, well, this year it just seemed to be an impossible event to pull off.
Let's hope we all follow the guidelines, hope a vaccine can be developed that works, and for the meantime, keep running... just keep your distance when you do so.
See you... well... just hope to see you somewhere soon!