2021 Cross Country Storylines: A Normal Season?

A Normal Season?

On July 3rd, I went to an Alabama concert with Martina McBride at Bridgestone arena. I'm not a country music fan but my wife is and bought tickets from a friend the previous week. It was the first at capacity concert since at Bridgestone Arena since March of 2020 and I would estimate it was 90% full. I recognized some of the songs but not many. Between both acts the show went for close to three hours and while at times the concert did feel as though it dragged along I had no complaints. I love concerts and had tickets to shows coming to Nashville in 2020 all of which had to be postponed to later this year, 2022 or cancelled entirely. It just felt good to be there regardless of performer.

But what do events like this and the overwhelming loosening of restrictions mean for the upcoming Cross Country season? For starters, after sitting out fall sports last season schools in Shelby County will be able to compete scholastically again. We may also be able to get a sense of how good some schools out of Knoxville are in comparison to the rest of the state before they show up to Sanders Ferry in November as well.

That said, here what the TSSAA published in April of this year. I would focus on the opening statement.

The way I read that statement is "Hey, here are the guidelines we're required to put out. They're not mandates. Make the decision that's right for your team and community."

While that statement is well-intended, I don't think that usurps the CDC requirements for quarantining due to contact tracing which caused to at least two high caliber girls having to miss the state meet last season, Auldyn Plant of Nolensville and Andie-Marie Jones of Maryville.  

"It definitely hurt because I was just sitting next to somebody and I never actually had it." (1:10 mark)

Fortunately for Plant and Jones, they have another year to leave their mark on the state meet.

With schools ceasing their virtual school options while also not requiring masks, I find it hard to also continue enforcing 10 day quarantines for contact tracing and in talking to some coaches and administrators recently, I'm not sure some school systems will.

I continue to maintain my stance from the spring... ultimately after a year of data and studies some things should be pretty clear by now, one of the safest places for a person to be during this pandemic is outside and one of the best things a person can be doing while there is exercising. I won't inject more of my opinion, though I have a lot of them, beyond that statement. However, I will present some data from the John Hopkins COVID-19 Dashboard as a comparison to where we were last year when decisions about the season were being made about how to move forward with the season as compared to this year. 

2020 2021
8-Jul 60119 22931
9-Jul 62509 21008
10-Jul 68057 48260
11-Jul 60017 9038
12-Jul 58424 6164
13-Jul 58930 35013
14-Jul 68051 31845
Total Case Count 436107 174259
Seven Day Average 62301 24894.14

I'll leave it up to you how to interpret the data. 

Last season, most meets were cancelled because the city told schools "you can't host here." Venues like Steeplechase and the Cedars of Lebanon were off limits for even just casual walking. This season however, there is no shortage of meets available on the calendar. As more meets get added, coaches are reaching out to me to delete their previously scheduled events as rather than host their own, they've found other places to run.

More coverage to come.