Oak Park competes in first cross-country meet of the year

Cross-country season cleared to begin

The cross-country team competed in their first meet on Feb. 18 after getting clearance from CIF. This comes after California lifted its statewide stay-at-home order and reverted back to a county-specific color tier system. 

The meet on Feb. 18 was held at Mission Oaks Park. To comply with COVID-19 restrictions, the meet wasl a “dual meet,” hosting Oak Park High and only one other team. This varies from cross-country meets in the past that hosted many schools at once. 

“Other precautions include athletes having to do a health screening before they run, everyone is gonna be in masks. The athletes are going to have to wear their masks right up until they race,” Athletic Director Tim Chevalier said. “The same type of precautions that are taking place in conditioning right now. No sharing of anything, unfortunately no big hugs or slapping high fives.” 

In addition to social distancing and mask wearing, there was no designated area for spectators to discourage non-athletes from attending the event. With previous uncertainty about the season, conditioning intensity has varied leading into the event. 

“For a while, practices were optional and led by captains, other weeks were a combination of captain and coach led, and now we’ve finally transitioned back to full intensity, six day a week, coach led practices knowing we have somewhat of a season ahead to train for,” senior and cross-country team captain Lauren Nicholson wrote to the Talon. 

In preparation for the season, the CIF worked with the California Department of Health to determine which sports would be allowed to open at each colored tier. Cross-country is one of the sports that has been approved at the purple tier.  

“It’s our only fall sport that is able to open at the purple tier which means they are the first to compete,” Chevalier said. “The spring sports that are in the purple tier, they’re gonna be starting up in a couple of weeks. Tennis, golf and track field are scheduled for a little later.”

The start of competition during the COVID-19 pandemic comes with mixed feelings for some athletes. 

“I’m nervous about a multitude of things — how prepared I am after such inconsistent training, the lack of social distancing, the crowded nature of the start line — many aspects make my stomach turn. However, I’m so excited to watch my whole team’s hard work finally pay off after over 10 months of training,” Nicholson wrote.