Fall Outdoor Track? More Questions Than Ever At VHSL Meeting

The Virginia High School League and their Executive Committee met Wednesday to discuss potential plans for the fall athletic schedule. Two of the biggest headlines from this meeting were that they were changing course and potentially allowing certain sports to happen while others do not and that they were not making any decisions yet, once again. 

Plans, Plans, Plans

As of today, 7/15, there are three plans of action put forth for what athletics could look like in Virginia for the 2020-2021 school year. Nothing is set in stone and very much contingent on how quite a few other things go as well. The plan put forth tentatively will be voted on July 27th at the league's next meeting. Below are the plans put forth. 

Plan 1: Leave all sports in their respective seasons. This fall only XC and golf would be allowed to happen. We spoke with state meet representatives and they are already making contingency plans to make XC meets as safe as possible. Some ideas include limiting events to just athletes and coaches and broadcasting events while also using bib chips to limit interactions with officials. One idea that is very interesting is running in waves (all number one runners run at once then five minutes later number two runners go and so on). 

Plan 2: Switch fall and spring sports. So outdoor track would be run in the fall while XC is run in the spring. This is directly a nod to football's interests and cannot be overlooked as a potential outcome since football is a big money driver for the League. There are more concerns with this plan than any other as it relates to the running world and would be impossible to discuss further until we knew if this was the direction of the league or not. 

The VHSL's Executive Director Dr. Billy Haun was quick to note one potential issue with this plan - if there is a resurgences in cases this fall then spring sport athletes could lose two years of sports. 

Plan 3: Adopt the "Condensed Interscholastic Plan" which would mean Indoor track meets from December 28th until February 20th, cross country meets from March 1st until May 1st, and outdoor track  meets from April 26th until June 26th. The later dates in each range being potential championship dates. This plan is definitely the boldest but could be the outcome if multiple other state associations adopt it to allow athletes all over the country the same opportunity. 

A Tough Spot To Be In

League officials are in a tough spot. They can't put out a blanket statement saying fall sports are back and everything is normal but at the same time they don't want to make it seem like it is all doom & gloom. That positioning has left us in the spot we are in now where we hear more ideas yet again but no plan of action. It helps to note that the VHSL and athletics as a whole are beholden to what the state does, each county does, each school district does, and then what athletic departments do. It is looking more and more like there will be multiple plans and multiple solutions to the sports problem.

What All Of This Means For The Running Community 

Frankly these plans look quite good for the Virginia running community. We cannot expect things to be done normally quite yet so this is basically the best we could hope for at this point. Here are our pointers and biggest takeaways. 

  • The League originally was looking at a one shoe fits all approach where if football couldn't happen then other fall sports couldn't happen. Luckily, we have moved away from that approach and it looks like XC and golf are being noted as being far safer than other contact sports and thus should be treated differently. Big win for XC there. 
  • The scariest plan would be "Plan 2" where outdoor track risks being cancelled a second year in a row. 
  • A condensed schedule like in "Plan 3" poses some huge issues for the running community. The biggest if for distance runners who would go from indoor track to XC to outdoor track with quite a bit of overlap. Also multiple sport athletes such as football athletes who throw would be hurt by this since football would be smack in the middle of the indoor and outdoor track seasons.