Throughout October, the goal for high school cross country teams is to extend their seasons until the state meet the first weekend of November.
This year, state qualifiers ended up getting one more week to prepare than they expected, and few were pleased.
Bad weather forced the postponement of the state meet to Nov. 10, as persistent rain created flooding conditions across the course at National Trail Raceway, the Ohio High School Athletic Association announced Nov. 1.
The meet, which was postponed for the first time, originally was scheduled for Nov. 3.
“While I wholeheartedly understand the impact this move has for all those involved in the event, this is the best solution for the safety and well-being of our participating student-athletes,” OHSAA commissioner Jerry Snodgrass said in a press release. “National Trail Raceway has closed the course due to flooding with the ongoing rain we have had in central Ohio, so the conditions will hopefully be much better by (Nov. 10).”
National Trail Raceway has played host to the meet since 2011. The meet was held at Scioto Downs from 1985-2010, but it was moved when the racetrack added live gambling.
Several coaches noted that runners who expected to reach state geared their training toward that weekend for months, only to have their schedules disrupted.
“It’s really tough on coaches and kids who train specifically for this meet all year,” Olentangy Orange boys coach Adam Walters said. “A state course should be able to handle any weather. Kids can run in mud and that’s how most of the cross country community will view this.
“It’s not good for the sport, but if the course is truly unsafe, it’s the right call and we need to question whether this should be the venue moving forward.”
Columbus Academy coach Denny Hammond disputed that the postponement was strictly to help the competitors.
“The problem — and they’re not going to say it — is the parking,” Hammond said. “It’s about the gate and how much money are they going to get. They can’t get all that parking in there with all the rain.
“Scioto Downs was fine, but everything about this course is terrible. Spectators can’t see (and) parking is terrible.”
Spectators park on grass fields on the south side of U.S. 40, opposite the facility.
Underscoring the impact of the weather was that Columbus broke its rainfall record for Nov. 1 with 1.54 inches just after 5 p.m., according to the National Weather Service. Rain began across most of the area early Oct. 31 and continued into Nov. 2.
Hilliard Davidson girls coach Nate King said some state competitors also planned to participate in the Nike Cross Nationals Midwest Regional meet Nov. 11 in Terre Haute, Indiana, and that they likely would have to scrap the plan because of the postponement.
“Many of the best teams are already registered to compete,” King said. “Those top teams will be denied a fair chance to qualify to the national championships on account of racing the day prior. We will move forward and resolve to use this situation to our advantage somehow.”
Pickerington Central boys coach Andy Fischer was surprised but not altogether disappointed at the postponement. The Tigers finished 11th at regional Oct. 27 at Pickerington North, six spots shy of advancing to state as a team, and although senior Brady Johnson qualified for his third consecutive state meet, he was not pleased with finishing 12th overall.
“If the conditions are as bad as they seem to be, then I am all for not having the Venice Marathon experience,” Fischer said jokingly, referring to a marathon in Venice, Italy, that was run Oct. 28 with approximately 75 percent of the city underwater because of flooding. “In general, I would worry about what the extra week does to the peak fitness of my athlete since it is difficult to carry a peak for too long. I think that it will work out for Brady since his (and the team’s) performance was a little off (at regional). The extra week gives us an opportunity to get back on track.”
The schedule will remain the same for all races Nov. 10.
Boys races will be run first, with Division III at 11 a.m., followed by Division II at 11:45 and Division I at 12:30 p.m.
The Division III girls race will be at 1:30, followed by Division II at 2:15 and Division I at 3.