Cross-country institutes COVID rules

Washington and Mt. Pleasant runners take off together in the boys race at the Class 3A district meet in Solon. Lance Sobaski (521) was the lone qualifier on the boys' side for the Union area big schools. The IHSAA has released guidelines regarding the coronavirus for cross-country races this fall. (File)
Washington and Mt. Pleasant runners take off together in the boys race at the Class 3A district meet in Solon. Lance Sobaski (521) was the lone qualifier on the boys' side for the Union area big schools. The IHSAA has released guidelines regarding the coronavirus for cross-country races this fall. (File)

The Iowa Girls High Scool Athletic Union and the Iowa High School Athletic Association have issued guidelines for the upcoming season in response to concerns over the coronavirus.

General considerations include no hugging, shaking hands, or fist bumps.

Cross-country meets may consider using staggered, wave or interval starts although the state qualifying meets and state meet will be using the traditional mass start.

Regular season meets should consider the format of the meet, including having different levels run on different nights. Many regular season meets previously have been run with middle school, junior varsity and varsity all at the same location but with different start times.

Possible rule modifications include widening the course to at least six feet at its narrowest point as well as widening the starting grids, including skipping boxes at the starting line.

The finish line has often been a mass of humanity between spectators and tired runners. Schools have been considering using finish corrals and FAT timing for larger meets that will provide for easier distance between people at the finish.

With no FAT timing system, schools should consider alternative means of athlete’s finish place and time to address congestion at the finish line. An example includes writing down the bib numbers of finishers rather than tearing bibs.

Schools should also consider using image-based equipment at finish to assist with picking place to avoid congestion.

Schools are asked to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and exercise equipment.

Before and after meets, ceremonies are often held but care should be taken to establish cross-country specific social distancing meet protocols including the elimination of handshakes before and after the meet.

As with any sport, people (players, coaches, officials, spectators, etc.) feeling sick or that have been exposed to someone sick, should not attend or participate in competitions or practices.

The IGHSAU and the IHSAA strongly encourages all participants and spectators to practice social distancing and to wear face coverings whenever possible.

Coaches have additional responsibilities because of the pandemic.

Beside communicate guidelines in a clear manner to students and parents, coaches are asked to conduct practices by limiting the amount of people in a group. They should consider conducting workouts in “pods” of same students always training and rotating together in practice to ensure more limited exposure if someone develops an infection.

Keep accurate records of those athletes and staff who attend each practice in case contact tracing is needed.

At meets, teams often set up areas or camps where the school’s team are based for a particular meet. Those team camps should be sure to practice social distancing from other teams as much as possible. Coaches should consider the number of individuals within the camp as well as the size of the tents, including whether to include the sides of the tent.

Student-athletes will be asked to be responsible for their own supplies. Students should wear their own appropriate workout clothing, and individual clothing and towels should be washed and cleaned after every workout immediately upon returning home. Each athlete should bring their own water bottle.

Hand sanitizer should be plentiful at all contests and practices.

Athletes should tell coaches immediately when they are not feeling well.

Cloth face coverings are permitted.

Protocols must be established for the start and finish of races. Student-athletes should have individual bags and locations for sweats. There should be no mass piling of team clothing. Student-athletes should remain upright and walk through the finish chute with the understanding that there will be times that a participant may need medical attention.

Meet officials will be asked to bring personal hand sanitizer and wash hands frequently. Officials should not share any equipment. Social distancing is expected when clerking at the start line, tabulations and posting of results and consider using an electronic whistle. Do not shake hands and follow pre- and postgame ceremony guidelines established by the state associations. Officials personnel are strongly encouraged to wear cloth face coverings at all times.

Parents will be expected to provide personal items for their child and clearly label them. The use of cloth face coverings is strongly encouraged. In addition, social distancing is strongly encouraged as much as possible for non-participants, parents, coaches, officials, and other event volunteers.

School administrations will be expected to sanitize all possible facilities that could be in use during a meet. Consideration should be given to which facilities are going to need sanitization, how often will sanitization be needed, and who will be doing the sanitizing.

The awards ceremonies must have options that would allow social distancing for the athletes, coaches, and spectators. Alternatives such as not having awards ceremonies or strongly recommending the use of cloth face coverings for any individuals attending the awards ceremonies are strongly recommended options.

Potential options for the cross-country postseason may be considered regarding the state qualifying meets and state meet depending upon the status of COVID-19.

Locker rooms may be utilized, however the Department of Public Health guidelines must be adhered to.

Concession stands may be opened, provided they have been inspected and licensed. Schools will be asked to limit the outside food brought in by teams and spectators.

Admission may be taken using sanitization practices or a freewill donation container is an option as well.

The Department of Education Transportation guidelines should be followed when traveling as a team.

Consider establishing a team-based approach to a develop a written management protocol for any COVID-19 related issues, including exposure and testing outcomes. Contact local county public health officials for their participation, involve school nurse and/or medical personnel, certified athletic trainers and/or counselors.

For additional COVID-19 guidance, please contact the Iowa Department of Public Health at (515) 281-7689 or visit their website at