High school state cross country championships canceled

Because of concerns about the rise in COVID-19 cases and a new state mandate that high school athletes must wear face masks during competition, the Maine Principals’ Association decided Monday to cancel the 2020 state cross country championships.

The meets were scheduled to held this week at Bangor’s Saxl Park. The Class A, B, and C races for boys would have been Wednesday, and the girls’ races were scheduled for Saturday. The cancellation affects hundreds of student-athletes who had qualified for the state meets.

In a press release from the MPA, the two primary reasons for canceling the meet were outlined:

• The concern of bringing students together from all parts of Maine through statewide travel as we are experiencing a significant increase in the number of C-19 cases in Maine.

• The new mask mandate for student-athletes to wear masks throughout the competition. Many cross country runners have not been acclimatized to wearing the mask while competing in a high stakes race since the mandate took place last Friday. This is a concern for the health and safety of the student-athletes.

The release also stated, “We received a great deal of feedback from school administrators and coaches regarding this meet and all concerns were heard. We also know that there will be a great deal of disappointment from those scheduled to compete in this race.”

The decision was made after a joint meeting between the MPA’s cross country and sports medicine committees, said Mike Bisson, the MPA’s assistant executive director and chief liaison for cross country.

Prior to that meeting, Bisson said, “the real issue is, Is it prudent to have a statewide meet when you’re seeing 200 (positive) cases today. That’s really the big issue but the discomfort of the mask has its own challenges.”

On Monday, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 204 new cases, the highest single-day total yet in Maine.

COVID-19 cases and concern around the pandemic had already forced the MPA to move the site from its original location at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast after Waldo County was placed in the “yellow” category by the Maine Department of Education. Further, the MPA canceled the regional meets because they often exceed 200 runners. Teams and individuals qualified via conference meets. The state meets had been planned to have nine teams of up to seven runners and six-to-eight individual runners in each class to keep the fields well under the state’s 100-person limit for outside gatherings.

The boys’ cross country championships have been held every year since 1964. The girls’ championships began in 1976.

This story will be updated.

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