A packed sprint to get seasons for college runners

Moving traditional autumn sports to later in the calendar due to COVID-19 has some consequences that are not related to the pandemic itself.

It has been clear this week as Big Ten runners have prepared for Saturday’s cross-country championships in Shelbyville, Indiana, with snow covering much of the Midwest.

“When it comes to training for that, we obviously can’t get on the grass,” said Wisconsin coach Mick Byrne. Zimmer cross-country skiing course (on campus) is covered in snow, as are most of our regular training sites. Obviously we have had some snow here. Most of what we do is out on roads or bike paths. ”

The Division I Board announced at the end of September that the NCAA Championships in cross-country skiing, hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball and water polo for men would take place in the spring of 2021 rather than the fall of 2020.

Some leagues such as the Southeastern Conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big 12 continued and played traditional fall sports in the fall anyway. The Big Ten was among the conferences that chose to wait until 2021.

The Big Ten Cross-Country Skiing Championships would usually take place in late October or early November rather than in late January. Saturday’s forecast in Shelbyville requires temperatures in the 30s with 80% risk of precipitation.

“We’re proud to go through pretty much everything,” Indiana senior Ben Veatch said. “It will hurt, no matter what.”

Even after pushing the cross-country skiing season back to 2021, the big ten still have to deal with the branches of the pandemic.

Michigan put its entire athletic department on hiatus this week after several positive tests for a new COVID-19 variant that broadcasts at a higher rate, which means that Wolverines will not compete on Saturday. Michigan finished third in the men’s and women’s division in 2019 but won three straight women’s conference titles in 2016-18.

“In my opinion, the Big Ten championship without Michigan men and women is a diluted championship,” said Byrne, whose Badgers won the men’s division and finished second in Michigan State in the 2019 women’s division.

Veatch said the biggest complication of having a cross-country skiing season at this time of year is not the weather. He is more concerned about the cross-country skiing season, which coincides with the indoor track season.

Many cross-country skiers also compete on indoor courses, but the length of their races varies. For example, men’s cross-country skiers generally compete in the mile, the 3-kilometer run or 5K in the indoor track. The big ten men in cross-country skiing is an eight-kilometer event for men and 6 kilometers for women. The NCAA Championships go 10 kilometers for the men and 6 for the women.

This has created a training dilemma for runners. Veatch states that “while some people think it’s the same thing – we just run – there are quite different disciplines (in) cross country versus track.”

“We’re just trying to walk the very thin line of what can make us best for both of us at the moment,” said Veatch, who noted the team aspect of the competition: in the indoor track can say, ‘Hi, we should focus only on cross-country skiing.’ “

The calendar is full of college sports athletes: the Pac-12, Big East and several other leagues are holding their conference championships on March 5, which is ten days before the NCAA Championships in Stillwater, Oklahoma. .

But the big ten indoor championships are February 26-27 and the NCAA indoor championships are March 12-13.

“It was just so much intensity in a sequence,” Michigan State coach Lisa Breznau said. “(We thought) really having it in the past might be a better idea for us.”


Follow Steve Megargee at https://twitter.com/stevemegargee

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